Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. This doesn’t mean that men aren’t also affected by this cancer. 1 in 870 men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. So, it’s important for men and women to understand the risk factors, the signs and how to check your breasts correctly.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to divide and grow in an unusual and uncontrolled way. The most common type of breast cancer starts in the ducts which carry breast milk to the nipple. Sometimes cancer can start in the lobules, the glands that produce milk.
What are the risk factors?
Having one or more of the risk factors below does not mean you will definitely get breast cancer. Similarly, if you have no risk factors it does not mean you won’t develop it.
Age – About 80% of women diagnosed are over the age of 50.
Family History – If a number of closely related family members have been diagnosed, if they were diagnosed at a young age or a man in your family has been diagnosed.
Diabetes – Diabetes can increase your risk of diagnosis slightly, though we are not sure why.
Dense Breast Tissue – When the breast has less fat and more breast cells and connective tissues.
Ethnicity – White women have a higher risk than any other ethnic group.
Periods – Starting your period early (before 12) or starting your menopause late (after 55), possibly due to longer exposure to oestrogen.
Weight – For men and women the risk increases as more weight is gained.
How do I reduce my risk?
Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet – Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and try to maintain a healthy weight. Cancer Research UK outlines how obesity contributes to 13 different types of cancer, but having a healthy and balanced diet can reduce your risk.
Cut Down On Alcohol – The more alcohol you drink regularly, the more likely you are to develop breast cancer at some point in your life. Even drinking just one drink a day can increase your risk,
Keep Physically Active – Any exercise including walking, swimming, dancing, cycling and yoga are good ways to stay fit. Even walking to your local shops instead of taking the car can make a difference.
What are the symptoms?
- A new lump or thickening in your breast or armpit
- A change in size, shape or feel or your breast
- Skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin
- Fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breast feeding
- Changes in the position of the nipple
How do I check for breast cancer?
It’s important to be able to tell when something’s not right with your breasts. Get to know your breasts at different times of the month and after menopause. Checking for any changes could help to discover breast cancer early.
Breast Cancer Now has come up with an easy was for men and women to remember how to check their breasts and it involves a little TLC; Touch, Look, Check.
Touch Your Breasts – Can you feel anything new or unusual? Try checking in the shower or when lying down. Don’t forget breast tissue reaches all the way up to your collarbone and underneath your armpit so remember to check their too.
Look For Changes – Does anything look different to you? Look to see if they are the usual size, shape and colour or it there is any visible distortion or swelling.
Check With Your GP – If you are concerned with any of your symptoms, visit your GP straight away.
Most changes you see in your breasts, including lumps, aren’t cancer but if you notice a change to your breast that’s new or unusual for you, get it checked by your GP.
See how we helped Sue through her breast cancer journey