ALMOST one million women have missed vital breast screenings due to the coronavirus pandemic and early diagnosis is key to saving lives.
Breast cancer kills over 11,000 people in the UK every year, with over 55,000 people each year being diagnosed with the condition.
Cancer Research UK states that over 23 per cent of breast cancer cases are preventable and a recent report from Breast Cancer Now highlighted that referrals for breast cancer patients dropped by 70 per cent at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Knowing what to look out for with your breast health is paramount as early detection can save lives.
Charity CoppaFeel says you can check in any way that feel comfortable to you.
The charity states that this should be a monthly habit and that by doing this you will build confidence and awareness.
October is breast cancer awareness month and here are five things every woman needs to know when it comes to checking your boobs for signs of cancer.
1. Step one
Begin by looking in a mirror, facing it with your arms on your hips and your shoulders straight.
You should be looking for any dimpling, puckering, bulging skin, redness, soreness, a rash or changes in the nipple.
2. Step two
Still looking in the mirror, raise both arms above your head and check for the same changes.
3. Step three
With your arms still above your head, check for any fluid coming from the nipples.
This can include milky, yellow or watery fluid, or blood.
4. Step four
While lying down use your opposite hand to check each breast. Using a few fingers, keeping them flat and together, go in a small circular motion around your breasts.
Make sure you feel the entire breast by going top to bottom in these small circles.
It helps to develop a system or pattern to make sure every inch is covered.
Use light pressure for the skin and tissue just beneath, medium pressure for the tissue in the middle of your breasts, and firm pressure to feel the tissue at the back, feeling down to your ribcage.
5. Step five
Feel your breasts while either standing or sitting, using the same small circular motions.
If you spot any unusual changes in your breasts then it’s important that you visit your GP.
Breast tissue reaches all the way up to your collarbone and across to your armpit, so it’s vital to check these areas too.
Breasts do change naturally as part of your monthly menstrual cycle, so you should get to know your breasts, how they feel and what changes they usually go through to know if anything is out of the ordinary.
If you’re pregnant your breasts will go through a lot of changes, and probably will never look the same.
Be aware of any new changes, and keep checking them regularly.
During the menopause breasts may also change size and shape, but it is still important to see your doctor over any new changes.
If any changes or lumps need further treatment, your GP may recommend a mammogram or a biopsy.
What age should you go for screening?
Around two million women are screened for breast cancer each year.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme is currently for women aged between 50 and 70, and involves screening every three years.
In some parts of England, this has been opened to women aged 47 to 73 years old as part of a trial.
Women are called to a mammogram, which is an image of the breasts obtained by mammography.
Mammography is used for the early detection of breast cancer and involves an X-ray of the breasts.
Breast Cancer Now states that surgery is usually the first treatment patients with primary breast cancer will have.
The NHS says that there are a range of treatments that are available for people who develop breast cancer.
Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy can also be used.
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The NHS states: “You may have one of these treatments, or a combination. The type or combination of treatments you have will depend on how the cancer was diagnosed and the stage it’s at.
“Breast cancer diagnosed at routine screening may be at an early stage, but breast cancer diagnosed when you have symptoms may be at a later stage and require a different treatment.”
When deciding what treatment is right for you your doctors will assess the stage and grade of your cancer – this means how far it may have spread.
They will also take into consideration your general health and whether or not you have experienced the menopause.