Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer.
About one in seven women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected in its early stages.
For this reason, it’s vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.
In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer
- A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- Discharge from either of your nipples, which may be streaked with blood
- A lump or swelling in either of your armpits or around your collarbone
- Puckering or dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- Redness or a rash on or around your nipple
- A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast (inverted)
Breast pain isn’t usually a symptom of breast cancer but if you have constant pain in your breast or armpit you should get it checked out by your doctor.
Causes of breast cancer
The exact causes of breast cancer aren’t fully understood. However, there are certain factors known to increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Age – the risk increases as you get older
- A family history of breast cancer
- A previous diagnosis of breast cancer
- A previous benign breast lump
- Being tall, overweight or obese
- Drinking alcohol
Preventing breast cancer
As the causes of breast cancer aren’t fully understood, at the moment it’s not possible to know if it can be prevented.
If you’re at increased risk of developing the condition, some treatments are available to reduce the risk.
Studies have looked at the link between breast cancer and diet. Although there are no definite conclusions, there are benefits for women who:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Have a low intake of saturated fat
- Do not drink alcohol
It’s been suggested that regular exercise can reduce your risk of breast cancer by as much as a third. Regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle can also improve the outlook for people affected by breast cancer.