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Early detection of breast cancer can lead to more successful treatment

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It is important to know how your breasts look and feel normally, so that if you notice a change, you can present to your doctor. Most women’s breasts change during the month and many women find self-examination difficult or daunting. I therefore recommend a few simple ways of regularly checking your breasts:

  • In the bath or shower, flatten the fingers of one hand and slide firmly over the breast tissue, also checking for any lumps in the under-arm area (axilla). Is there a lump or thickening to the breast that feels different to the rest of the breast tissue?

Look at your breasts in the mirror once-a-month:

  • Has there been a change in the size or shape of either breast?
  • Are there any new changes to the nipples, e.g. Inversion (change in the protrusion or flattening), rash around the nipple skin?
  • Are there any lumps bulging out of the skin or dimples in the skin?

With your arms raised above your head look at the outline, shape and the bottom of the breasts.

  • Does one look very different to the other?
  • Is there a discharge of fluid or blood from the nipple?
  • Do you have constant or persistent pain in the breast or in the arm-pit?

What do I do if I have one or more of these symptoms?

If you have any of these symptoms I recommend you see your GP to be referred to a specialist clinic. During the clinic visit you will be seen & examined by a Breast Surgeon who can then ensure a Mammogram and/or ultrasound of the breasts is organised as needed and the results explained to you during your clinic visit.  Any further testing will be explained as needed.

Family History of breast cancer

The risks of inherited breast cancer have recently been highlighted in the media, with the diagnosis and treatment of high profile celebrities such as Angelina Jolie.  These inherited risks are commonly  associated to a mutation in one of two genes, called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.   Although only about 5-10% of breast cancers run in the family, many women remain worried about genetic risks, particularly those with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

If you are concerned that you might be more likely to develop breast cancer due to your family history make an appointment to see your GP.

[This is taken from an article originally published on Mum’s guide to Harpenden in 2015]

About the author

Harleen Deol is a Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon at Spire Hospital Harpenden.

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