How do you check your breasts yourself?
- It’s important to be aware of the normal shape, look and feel so that you can identify changes before and after periods.
- Check with the flat of your hand for lumps and also examine the armpit and around the collar bone.
- Note any changes in shape or size of breast or nipple, colouring of the nipple, dimpling, scaliness, dents, skin discolouration, rashes, prominent veins or discharge from the nipple.
- Or any pain in the breasts or nipples.
Nine out of ten lumps are not breast cancer but it’s better to go to your doctor so you can find out early if it is malignant or not.
Some facts about breast cancer:
- The majority of women who get breast cancer are post-menopausal – 81 per cent are over 50.
- They are more prone to breast cancer particularly if they have a family history of the disease.
- More and more young women get it and it is the most common cancer in under 35s.
- Around 350 men get breast cancer each year as well.
- Treatments have become more successful and less invasive, with many more women having lumpectomies nowadays, creating a small scar, rather than losing the whole breast.
Causes of breast cancer
This is the most common form of cancer in the UK and some reports have focused on ‘middle class lifestyle’ – having children later, either not breast-feeding or cutting down the time span, plus increased drinking of alcohol. The increase in obesity has also been held responsible.
Breast cancer is linked with exposure to oestrogen, so HRT has to take part of the blame. Researchers have found that taking HRT for over three years increases the risk of breast cancer, and women who take the contraceptive pill for long periods (such as 20 years) non-stop could also be at risk.
Can you prevent it?
Eating healthily, not becoming overweight, avoiding too much alcohol, and exercising regularly reduce your chances of getting all cancers. It is also suggested that you cut your intake of saturated fats (dairy foods, red meats, etc.) Experts pay little heed to diet but surely eating food that is not laced with chemicals and including plenty of fruit and vegetables in the diet must be helpful. Put another way, wouldn’t they think that eating junk food all the time might have a detrimental effect to health?
See our article on Organic food is good for you
Many women’s health experts cite the numerous chemicals in our homes and the environment in general as damaging to our health. Every lotion, potion, spray and cleaning product contains dangerous chemicals, but now there are plenty of eco-friendly options available in the supermarket, and ranges of natural make up and cosmetics too.
Don’t overlook the effects of stress on your health, particularly long-held hurts and resentments. Read Are You Stressed?
Breast cancer checks
Mammograms are available to all women of 50 and over every three years. If there are particular circumstances that predispose you to the disease, such as several family members who have had it or if you have other health complications, screening may start earlier.
Guidance on healthy diet
The Penny Brohn Cancer Care Charity is one charity I would definitely get in touch with if diagnosed with any kind of cancer. It is the UK’s leading national holistic cancer care charity: 0845 123 23 10, http://www.pennybrohncancercare.org/ Their approach combines physical, emotional and spiritual support to back up medical treatment including nutritional advice, counselling and complementary therapies.
The Haven is another great charity that offers complementary therapies to women with breast cancer in Leeds, London and Hereford. No-one suggests that therapies are going to cure a woman of breast cancer, but they can help with the emotional effects and help you to feel calmer and more positive. Find out more about their Breast Cancer Support Centres at www.thehaven.org.uk For appointments: London 020 7384 0099, Hereford 01432 361 061, Leeds 0113 284 7829
NHS: Some hospitals offer fantastic palliative care with therapies, emotional support and nutritional guidance on offer. The Fountain Centre at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford provides a range of therapies free of charge to cancer patients including aromatherapy, yoga, acupuncture, counselling and herbal medicine.
For more information:
Breast Cancer Care: help, information and individual support: 0808 800 6000, www.breastcancercare.org.uk
Breakthrough, charity committed to research and education, has established a dedicated breast cancer research centre: 0800 100200, www.breakthrough.org.uk
*Figures from Cancer Research UK