Breast cancer survival rates are on the up, with 85 per cent of people now surviving beyond five years. Treatments are getting better and more and more of us are aware of the early signs of breast cancer, which means it gets picked up earlier.
There are 55,000 people in the UK diagnosed with breast cancer each year and 80 per cent of them are women over 50. Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older, so it’s important that you’re vigilant about keeping for signs and symptoms.
How to spot the signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Checking your breasts regularly and knowing what you’re looking for is your first step in beating breast cancer. “There’s no right or wrong way to check – the most important thing to do is look at and feel your breasts regularly,” says Jackie Harris, who is a Clinical Nurse Specialist with Breast Cancer Care. “A lot of people think a lump is the only symptom you should be looking for and reporting to a doctor, but it’s important to also look and feel for other changes too.”
Breast cancer warning signs to look for:
- Any changes to your skin, such as puckering or dimpling, redness or a rash.
- A change to the position or shape of your nipple.
- A change in the size or shape of your breasts.
- Any thickening or discharge from your nipples.
- Constant pain or swelling in your breast or your armpit.
If in doubt, have a look at this picture of breast cancer signs and symptoms or check this NHS video on what to look for.
What to look for
“Look for anything that is new to you,” says Jackie. “And check your whole breast, including your armpit and up to your collarbone.”
Most changes won’t turn out to be breast cancer, but don’t be scared of talking to your GP and don’t delay going. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment can be.
If you are aged 50-70 you will also be invited to routine breast screenings every three years. Studies have shown that these screenings save the lives of 3 or 4 women every day in the UK so it’s really important to go to your appointment.
“Mammograms are routine appointments for women who don’t have any symptoms,” says Jackie. “If you notice any changes that aren’t normal for you, you should still speak to your doctor as soon as possible. It’s so important to aware of your breasts even in between breast screenings”.
If you are over 70, you won’t be regularly invited to for breast screening. But you are still very welcome to chat to your GP about having a mammogram through the NHS if you are concerned about breast cancer or have a family history.