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How to Check for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is cancer that develops in breast cells. The most common cancer for females in the UK, Cancer Research UK reports 55,176 new breast cancer cases in the UK between 2015 and 2017, and 11,547 deaths between 2016 and 2018.

Men can be diagnosed with breast cancer as well as women, but it’s much rarer in men. Ninety-nine per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK are in females, and 1 per cent are in males.

It is essential that you know how to check for breast cancer and recognise potential signs of the disease, so you can seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early diagnosis gives you a better chance of treatment and cure.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Typically, breast cancer forms in the lobules or the ducts of the breast. The lobules are the glands that produce milk, and the ducts are the pathways that bring the milk from the glands to the nipple.

Cancer can also occur in the breast’s fatty tissue or the fibrous connective tissue in your breast.

Two categories are used to describe the most common types of breast cancer: invasive and noninvasive cancer. Invasive cancer means the cancer has spread from the breast ducts or glands to other parts of the breast.

Noninvasive cancer means the cancer has not spread from the original tissue.

Treatment for Breast Cancer

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you may need to see a breast surgeon. Your treatment will depend on a number of factors, including your cancer’s size, stage and how far it has invaded your body or is likely to grow and spread. 

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Many people associate breast cancer with a breast lump. But, a lump in your breast does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Nine out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. You may have a benign cyst.

You must, however, seek immediate advice from a doctor if you find a lump on your breast or notice any of the following:

  • A lump or swelling under your arm
  • Breast pain
  • A sudden change in the shape or size of your breast
  • Red, pitted skin over your breast
  • A change in the appearance of the skin on your breast
  • Tissue thickening
  • Swelling
  • Nipple discharge
  • Peeling, scaling or flaking skin on your breast or nipple
  • Inverted nipple
  • Tests to Diagnose Breast Cancer

To determine whether or not you have breast cancer, a doctor at a breast clinic will need to examine you and may need to conduct diagnostic tests. These tests might include:

A mammogram: This is an imaging test performed with the use of x-rays, usually in women above the age of 40 years, that helps your doctor see below the surface of your breast.

A breast ultrasound: This test uses echoes from sound waves to create a picture of the tissues deep in your breast so your doctor can distinguish between normal tissue, a solid tumour or a cyst.

A breast ultrasound is often the first or only imaging test used to evaluate a lump in women who are under 40 or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

In women, over 40 years old it is used to assess areas where the patient experiences symptoms or an adjunct to mammogram screening particularly in women with dense breasts.

Other tests include MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and biopsy.

Ways to Check for Breast Cancer

The most important way to check your breasts is self-examination.

Self-examination will help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel, so you are aware of any changes that could indicate breast cancer.

It’s a good idea to examine your breasts once a month, at the same time each month, since breasts can look and feel different at different times during the menstrual cycle.

You can also opt for a private consultation with a specialist and a breast ultrasound to check for any abnormalities.

If you identify a change or are in doubt, it is recommended to see a specialist breast surgeon who will assess your risk factors and examine your breast.

If an abnormality is detected you will require an ultrasound assessment and if over the age of 40 years old a mammogram also.

Women over 40 years old should have regular mammograms at a breast clinic to look for any changes in their breasts.

In addition, an important part of breast cancer screening is self-examination.

How to Examine Your Breasts

To examine your breasts, look at them in the mirror with your arms by your side and then with your arms raised above your head. Feel each breast and armpit and examine your breasts sitting up and lying down on your back.

It can be easier to examine yourself when you are in the bath or shower and your hands and body are soapy.

  • Has your breast shape changed?
  • Does your nipple appear to be in a different position?
  • Are there any rashes or changes in the look or feel of your skin?
  • Can you feel a new breast lump?
  • Do you notice any pain or discomfort?
  • If you notice a breast lump or any symptoms that concern you, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Harley Street Ultrasound

At Harley Street Ultrasound, we run a Breast Clinic for women who have concerns about changes in their breasts or armpits, or who would like a comprehensive breast health check from a specialist doctor.

No referral is needed, and urgent appointments are available. You can choose to have a breast ultrasound only, a breast consultation or a complete breast assessment.

Whichever option you choose, you will be under the care of a specialist breast doctor at our breast clinic in London.

By delivering a tailored approach to each patient, we pride ourselves in providing high-quality care with complete transparency at every stage and professionalism and reassurance when you need it the most.

Our aim is to provide every patient with a suitably qualified specialist trained to the highest level and experienced in carrying out relevant procedures.

As well as a comprehensive list of diagnostic examinations, we can provide minimally invasive procedures and therapies to diagnose breast cancer and other breast conditions.

Our diagnostic clinic is conveniently located in the world-renowned Harley Street in London. To make an appointment with a UK-trained specialist consultant doctor, please get in touch with us.

References: 

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/how-should-i-check-my-breasts/

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer/incidence-invasive#heading-Zero

https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing

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