What do Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton John and Cynthia Nixon have in common? All three celebrities have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month which aims to raise awareness of the disease. Did you know breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United Kingdom? Around 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every year, that’s the equivalent of one person every 10 minutes (source: Breast Cancer Care). It is often thought of as a condition that only affects women, but men can also develop it as well.
Knowing what your breasts look and feel like and checking them regularly can help you detect when something is wrong. The first symptom of breast cancer noticed is usually a bump or an area of thickened tissue. If you notice any of the following, you should see your GP:
- A lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast.
- A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
- Discharge from a nipple.
- A lump or swelling in either of your armpits.
- Dimpling on the skin of your breasts.
- A rash on or around your nipple.
- A change in the appearance of your nipple.
- Pain in either of your breasts or armpits that is not related to your period.
Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy are the main treatments. Here at the Trust we provide comprehensive support services for patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as support for their families.
Lynne Dodson, breast care clinical nurse specialist at Heartlands Hospital, says: “Across the Trust within the breast teams we have clinical nurse specialists. Their role is to care for patients with breast cancer. Nurses will support breast cancer patients throughout their treatment and give them information about treatments, support organisations and any other services people may benefit from.”
Detecting cancer early can mean treatment is more effective. One way of detecting breast cancer at an early stage is through breast screening. Lynne explains: “The NHS Breast Screening Programme screens around 1.6 million women a year. Women aged between 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for screening every three years. Women aged over 70 are still eligible to be screened and can arrange this through their GP or local screening unit.
“Not all cancers are found during breast screening and breast cancer can develop between screening appointments. If you have suspected breast cancer you will be referred to a specialist breast cancer clinic for more tests. Clinical nurse specialists and medical teams will be able to provide patients with individualised information about their treatment.”
If you would like further information on breast cancer, please visit the Breast Cancer Care website http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month takes place every year in October.
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