Find the answers here to questions you may have on breast cancer
Q1: How do I check my breasts?
A: No one knows your body better than you and everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes – there’s no special technique and you don't need any training.
The important thing is to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel normally so you notice anything unusual – and remember to check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits.
You might want to go to the Breakthrough Breast Cancer website at breakthroughbreastcancer.org to see a video of how different women fit their breast checks into their usual routine.
It's as simple as TLC…
Touch your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
Look for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
Check anything unusual with your doctor.
Q2: What age should I check my breasts?
A: It's important that all adult women are breast aware. Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 so as women get older it's even more important to check regularly. Don't forget that you still need to check in between breast screening appointments and when you are over 70.
Q3: When/how often should I check my breasts?
A: It's good to get into the habit of doing this regularly – maybe when you're in the bath or shower, or while getting dressed in the morning.
If you haven't been through the menopause, you may normally feel breast tissue changes or pain before or during your periods. That's why it's important to check your breasts regularly so you get to know how your breasts look and feel at different times of the month, and can notice any changes that are unusual for you.
Although there is no set time you should check, if you think you'll find it useful then go to Breakthrough.org.uk/tlc and either download the iBreastCheck app or set yourself a reminder through the website that suits you.
Q4: I have/someone I know has a breast change – what should they do?
A: If anyone notices a change that is unusual for them, they should speak to their GP. It could be a benign change but it's important to make sure that it's not a sign of something more serious.
GPs use national guidelines to determine if a woman should be referred to a breast clinic. Not everyone who visits their GP will need referring to a breast clinic. If her symptoms are likely to be as a result or normal or benign breast changes the GP will usually reassure the patients and give them appropriate information.
If you are still worried, you can go back to your GP and ask their advice – they won't mind. You could also ask for a second opinion from another GP.
If further changes occur then you should go back to your GP. Even if you are attending breast screening every three years, it is important that you visit your GP if you develop unusual breast changes between screening appointments.
Q5: Are lumps the only sign of breast cancer?
A: No. There are a number of different signs or symptoms of breast cancer that women should be aware of. For example, changes to skin texture such as dimpling or puckering, a change in the appearance or direction of the nipple, unusual nipple discharge, rash or crusting of the nipple or surrounding area or a change in size or shape of the breast.
A recent survey by Breakthrough Breast Cancer has shown that whilst 83% of women check for lumps in the breast, less than a third of women check for a change in the size or shape of the breast. A fifth of women surveyed did not correctly identify any signs or symptoms of breast cancer.
Q6: My Mum has had breast cancer. Am I more likely to get it?
A: Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and 1 in 8 women will develop it at some point in their lifetime. Most breast cancers are not linked to family history so it's important for all women to be breast aware.
However for those women who have a number of family members who have had breast cancer, especially before the age of 50, it could mean that their risk of developing breast cancer is higher than in the general population.
If you are worried about your family history you should go to your GP and they can discuss your concerns further.
Breakthrough produces a comprehensive guide to UK services for people with a family history of breast cancer which you can download or order from our website at breakthrough.org.uk
Q7: What are the main causes of breast cancer?
A: There is no one single cause of breast cancer – it results from a combination of our genes, the way we live our lives and our surrounding environment. However, certain factors can raise or lower our risk of developing breast cancer.
For most women, getting older is their biggest risk factor for breast cancer. At least four out of five of all breast cancer cases in the UK are in women over the age of 50 and breast cancer is uncommon in women under the age of 40.
Q8: Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of getting breast cancer?
A: Although breast cancer can't be prevented completely, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active can reduce your overall risk of developing breast cancer.
To find out more about breast cancer visit: breakthroughbreastcancer.org