October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a disease that claims the lives of 1,000 women each month in the UK alone. The Best You chatted with Yinka Ebo, the Health Information Lead at Breakthrough Breast Cancer to find out more.
What is Breakthrough?
Breakthrough Breast Cancer is the UK’s leading breast cancer research charity. We are determined to stop breast cancer from taking the women we love. Our cutting-edge research is focused entirely on breast cancer. We’re discovering how to prevent it, how to detect it earlier, and how to treat it more effectively. We’re taking on breast cancer at every stage and for every woman, learning how to control and outwit the disease so that, one day, we can stop it from taking lives.
How common is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. One in eight women will face it. Although more women are surviving breast cancer, sadly this month alone, 1,000 women will lose their lives to the disease.
What are the early signs?
Most women know that a lump is a sign of breast cancer but there are other signs and symptoms to look out for as well. At Breakthrough we believe that it’s as simple as Touch, Look, Check (TLC).
These include changes to the size and shape of your breast, changes in skin texture, colour, nipple appearance or discharge.
Breakthrough has produced a pocket-sized TLC guide – small and portable – which serves as a handy reminder to women to be breast aware.
Being breast aware simply means knowing what your breasts normally look and feel like, being on the lookout for any unusual changes and getting them checked out by your doctor. For more information and to download a free TLC guide visit www.breakthrough.org.uk.
How often should women check their breasts?
The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it. That’s why it’s so important to get to know what’s normal for you so it will be easier to spot any unusual changes.
No one knows your body better than you, and everyone will have their own way of checking their breasts – there’s no special technique and you don’t need any training.
You may normally feel breast tissue changes or pain before or during your periods. This is why it’s important to check your breasts regularly so you get to know how they look and feel at different times of the month and can notice any changes.
How often should you be invited for a mammogram?
You should be invited to attend a breast-screening appointment every three years.
When should you expect to be invited for mammograms (age)?
Because the programme is a rolling one, which invites women from GP practices in turn, not every woman receives an invitation as soon as she is 50. But she will receive her first invitation before her 53rd birthday.
Once women reach the upper age limit (70) for routine invitations for breast screening, they are still eligible for free screening, but they won’t be automatically invited, so they just need to make their own appointment.
Mammogram screenings through the NHS only start at age 50. Isn’t this a bit late?
Breast cancer is more common in older women. 4 out of 5 cases of the disease occur in women over 50. That’s why screening starts at this age.
It’s also important to note that the breast tissue of younger women – those who haven’t yet gone through the menopause – is much denser than older women as the tissue turns to fat after menopause. This means the process of mammography is less effective in these younger women, as it’s harder to see areas of concern on the images.
Breast screening isn’t the only way to spot breast cancer early. It’s really important for all women to be breast aware and get any unusual changes to the size, shape or feel of their breasts checked out by a doctor.
Can men get breast cancer? Is it common?
Around 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, but it is rare compared to around 50,000 women every year.
What are the best ways to prevent breast cancer?
Our dedicated team of researchers are tirelessly working to find the answer to this question and, though we don’t yet have a complete answer to that question, we are learning more and more each day about why some women develop breast cancer and others don’t. There is no one single cause of breast cancer – it is caused by a combination of our genes, our lifestyles and life choices, and things in our surrounding environment.
The good news is that there are steps that all women can take to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. For example, just 30 minutes of daily physical activity can reduce breast cancer risk by up to 20%. Limiting how much alcohol you drink and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce breast cancer risk too.
What can people do to raise awareness of breast cancer?
We have developed a mobile app called iBreastCheck, which provides all of our TLC information and is designed to educate women on everything they need to know to be breast aware. It can be downloaded for free from iBreastCheck.com, so tell all your friends and family how important it is to be breast aware.
How can people contribute to your cause?
There are lots of ways! You can get ideas and sign up for UK-wide challenges and events via our website, or, if you would prefer to donate via direct debit, you can do that too. This year, we’re on a mission to raise as much money as possible to help fight breast cancer, and the next big fundraising campaign we are running for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the Breakthrough Bake Off.
Taking part couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is gather friends, family and colleagues to share some home-baked goodies and raise some cash. This year’s Bake Off day is on October 17th, but you can hold a Breakthrough Bake Off anytime, anywhere. Just visit our website to sign up and get your free fundraising pack.
Breast cancer has already taken too many lives. It’s time to put an end to it. Will you help us stop breast cancer for good? To get involved visit www.breakthrough.org.uk