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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The importance of being Breast Aware

12 October 2016

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in females in the UK with approximately one in eight women receiving the diagnosis in their lifetime. Half of these cases will be in females over the age of 65 years. Worryingly, there has been an increase in the incidence of breast cancer in Britain over the last decade, around 6%, but the good news is that deaths from the disease have fallen as treatments have improved; 17% reduction in the last decade and 32% compared to figures from the 1970's.

In a lot of cases, breast cancer is linked to lifestyle factors. The longer a woman's body is exposed to Oestrogen, through early onset of periods and a late menopause, then the higher the risk. Obesity, alcohol and inactivity also contribute to an increased risk of the disease. Breastfeeding for six months or more and moderate physical activities can all aid in the prevention of the cancer. Approximately 10% of breast cancers are inherited and anyone with a strong family history of early onset of the disease should see their GP for referral to a genetics service and further investigation.


The most common sign of the cancer is a lump in the breast and the most common area is the upper outer part of the breast. Other symptoms include nipple discharge or recent inversion of the nipple and puckering of the skin or a lump in the armpit. If you have any of these symptoms you should visit your GP to be checked out. Under national guidelines patients should be seen in two weeks at a rapid access breast clinic where they have what is known a triple assessment. This is an examination by a surgeon, an Ultrasound scan or Mammogram, and a sample of the lump done using a fine needle and syringe. This allows a rapid and confident diagnosis to be made in the vast majority of cases.


Treatment is improving all the time but usually consists of removing the lump and Radiotherapy in order to conserve the woman's breast. The need for Chemotherapy is determined by a careful examination of the tumour and its genetics. Everyone should be aware of the signs and act promptly, as with improved treatments, an early diagnosis can make a real difference.

Mr Gerard Lambe is a Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Breast Surgeon at HCA The Wilmslow Hospital and The Christie Clinic for more information or to book an appointment please call 01625 545 036.

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