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petal style pink ribbon and Breast Cancer awareness month

Recognising the signs of breast cancer

by Cathy Sheel

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and this year’s campaign is aimed at raising awareness of secondary breast cancer.

According to research charity Breast Cancer Now, there are an estimated 61,000 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

What is Secondary Breast Cancer?

This happens when breast cancer cells spread from the primary (first) cancer in the breast to other parts of the body. Breast cancer cells can spread through the lymphatic system or the blood stream.

Recognising the signs:

Some general symptoms that breast cancer may have spread include:

  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Constant nausea (feeling sick)
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite

There are more signs that breast cancer may have spread to other parts of the body.

Know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer

 It is important to check your breasts regularly – that way you will get to know what is normal for you.

Possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in the breast – this is the most common symptom, but most breast lumps are not cancer.  They are usually lumps either filled with fluid (a cyst) or made up of fibrous and glandular tissue (fibroadenoma).
  • A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • A change in the colour of the breast – it may look red or inflamed
  • A nipple change – it has become pulled in (inverted)
  • A rash or crusting around the nipple
  • Changes in size or shape of the breast
  • A lump or swelling in either armpit
  • Discharge from either nipple
  • Breast pain on its own, is not usually a sign of breast cancer, but look out for pain in your breast or armpit that is there almost all the time.

If you find changes in your breast that are not normal for you, it is best to see your GP as soon as possible.  The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the more successful treatment is likely to be.

It is also important to attend for any cancer screening – cervical, breast or bowel – when invited.

To help reduce your risk of cancer:

  • Drink less alcohol
  • Be more active
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Stop smoking

You can find out how to check your breasts and more information at www.breastcancernow.org