One in seven women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.1 It can also affect men, but this is rare.1
However, despite these large numbers, breast cancer survival in the UK has nearly doubled from 40% to almost 80% in the last 40 years.2
Even though survival rates are increasing, it’s crucial to know the symptoms and how to check yourself properly. Remember, early detection is key – the earlier treatment starts, the more successful it is likely to be so there’s a better chance of recovery.3
Be ‘breast aware’
Learn how to check your breasts and make sure you’re familiar with how they normally look and feel. According to the NHS, your breasts can feel different throughout the month, for example during your menstrual cycle they might feel tender or lumpy, so understanding the natural changes in your breasts at different times of the month will help detect any abnormalities.
The NHS states to look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, up to your collar bone. You can also look at your breasts in the mirror with your arms by your side and also with them raised.
What to look out for
For most women, the first symptom is a lump, and although 90% are benign, you should always consult with your GP as it’s important to rule out breast cancer.4 If you notice any changes in the size of your breasts, have a rash, bleeding or changes in skin then you should also see your GP to be safe. To find out more about all the symptoms to look out for, visit the NHS website.
Ensure regular check-ups
The NHS Breast Screening Programme invites all women between the ages of 50 and 70 for screening every 3 years.5 In order to receive an invitation, you must be registered with a GP.
Breast screening takes two x-rays of each breast, called a mammogram, and the results are usually ready within two weeks. To find out more about breast screening, Cancer Research UK has a detailed page of what to expect.
Thanks to better screening, around five out of six women diagnosed in the UK today will be alive in five years’ time, compared with three out of six 40 years ago1 – this highlights the benefits of attending breast screening, so if you are overdue, make sure to contact your local breast screening unit to book an appointment.
If you have close relatives who have had breast cancer, you might have a higher risk of developing the condition yourself – however, because breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, it is possible for it to affect more than one family member by chance.6
In fact, most cases don’t run in families but there are particular genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. If you have two or more close relatives who have suffered from breast cancer under the age of 50, you could be eligible for breast or genetic screening.6
If you have any concerns at all or notice a change in your breasts, please contact your GP.
There is a free helpline run by Breast Cancer Care – if you’ve been affected by breast cancer or have any queries on general breast health, you can call them on 0808 800 6000 Monday-Saturday.
Did you know that a health care cash plan can provide financial support for cancer sufferers? Good All Round, from Sovereign Health Care, pays fixed cash amounts for day case admissions to hospital, or if an overnight stay is required. It also pays money towards the cost of alternative therapies including acupuncture, reflexology and homeopathy – treatments which may help sufferers to find comfort and physical relief in what can be an extremely difficult time. On a preventative level, Good All Round can help towards the cost of private mammogram screenings. To find out more about how Good All Round can benefit your health and wellbeing, visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/good-all-round. Please note that some benefits on the Good All Round cash plan have a 6 month qualifying period for pre-existing conditions.