October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to Breastcancer.org, 1 in 8 women in the United States (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer. This year alone, an estimated 268,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, as well as another 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
Although it's much less common, men are also at risk of breast cancer. In 2019, experts estimate there will be 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in men. The chance of men getting breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
Spotting symptoms early of not only breast cancer, but other cancers as well can significantly help make treatment more effective. English TV Doctor from the show "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor", Dr. Zoe Williams, shared seven important signs to look out for.
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It's scary that breast cancer is so common and yet one in three women still don't know what to look out for when checking their breasts for signs of cancer and one in seven women have never seen or been shown how to check their breasts for cancer, according to research by The Estée Lauder Companies.
These statistics really show the importance of breast cancer awareness, knowing the signs and symptoms to be aware of and opening up a dialogue among family and friends.
“The aim for Breast Cancer Awareness 2019 is to galvanize all women of all ages to talk about breast cancer and be knowledgeable on breast checking," said Doctor Zoe Williams. "What struck me about these findings is that so many women don’t feel confident to check for signs of breast cancer or feel embarrassed to talk about it."
"We must change this and make it the norm. Women should be encouraging other women to talk more openly about their breasts across generations in their community, including their mum, grandmother, auntie, sister, or friend, to really inspire conversations around the importance of breast health, self-checking, and simply supporting those who might be unsure of what to look for."
"Any changes that are found should be presented to their GP. While it’s likely not to be anything serious, earlier diagnosis and treatment will improve chances of survival," said Dr. Zoe Williams.
"This includes knowing about breast cancer, who is at risk and knowing that it can happen at any age. We want to encourage women to know what their breasts look and feel like normally so that they can spot any changes an understand how to do breast self-checks at home and the need to do it regularly."
"We want to provide information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for, understand the importance of discussing breast checking and any history of breast cancer one may have amongst family members.”
Dr. Williams said that there are three main reasons why women don't check their breasts for cancer. First, they may be embarrassed. Second, they don't know how to and third, because they don't know what to look for.
Dr. Williams stressed that women should start checking their breasts regularly and said "the sooner the better".
"As young girls start developing and getting their periods, so they should be taught by their mothers how to correctly check their breasts," said Dr. Williams.
She suggests that you aim to check them at least once a month. Some women find it easier to check while in the shower using soap while others prefer checking them in front of a mirror.
Here are seven breast cancer symptoms to be aware of:
- New lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast
- Change in size/shape of one or both breasts
- Bloodstained discharge from either of nipples
- Lump or swelling in either of armpits
- Dimpling on skin of breasts
- Rash on or around nipple
- Change in appearance of nipple (for example becoming sunken into breasts)
Dr. Williams also stressed that breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer. Getting to know what is normal for you will help make it easier to spot potential problems.