Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. Irish women have a 1 in 12 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Only about five to ten per cent of breast cancers are believed to have a family link. Approximately 80%of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years. Early diagnosis is a key to surviving breast cancer. If you notice any change in your breasts, see your GP as soon as possible. 9 out of 10 suspicious lumps are not cancerous. Pain isn’t usually a sign of breast cancer. If you have pain in one or both breasts, rest assured it’s probably due to hormonal changes, a benign cyst, a ligament strain or another condition; however it is important to get unexplained pain checked by your GP. More common warning signs of breast cancer include a palpable lump, a change in the size or shape of the breast, puckering of the skin, nipple changes (like scaling or discharge), or increased warmth. A mammogram (X-ray of the breast) is the most common way to check for breast cancer. 80.6% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for 5 years or longer; early detection is the key to survival.
Importance of self-checks
74% of Irish women with breast cancer discovered the lump themselves. Self-checks should be done at the same time every month. What self-exams do is help you become familiar with what’s “normal” for your breasts. So when something’s off, you’ll know and can bring it to your doctor’s attention.
What happens if my GP sends me for a breast check?
Your GP will refer you to a specialist breast clinic in a hospital if he/she has any concern about your symptoms; for example if you have a lump in your breast. At the hospital, you may have triple assessment. Triple assessment uses three ways used to assess your breasts. It starts with the doctor taking a medical history or list of any health problems you have had in the past and then examining your breasts and underarms. Next you may be sent on to the X-ray department for the next step which may be a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) or an Ultrasound scan or both. Finally a biopsy which may be a fine needle test or core biopsy. If you do not have a lump you may not need full triple assessment.
BreastCheck Screening Programme
BreastCheck is a Government funded programme which invites women aged 50 to 64 to get a free mammogram on an area-by-area manner every two years. If you haven’t got an invitation you can register for BreastCheck by calling freephone 1800 45 45 55 or logging on to www.breastcheck.ie.
Some quick tips on Breast Cancer Prevention
Evidence suggests that women with high aerobic fitness levels have a 55% lower chance of dying from breast cancer than their less-fit peers. So get active! Having two or more drinks a day increases breast cancer risk by about 25%. Embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods. Stop smoking, smoking is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in some women. Being overweight means higher amounts of circulating oestrogen, which could stimulate breast cancer growth. Even losing a few pounds can reduce your risk significantly. Breast-feed your babies for as long as possible. Women who breast-feed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later.
To be continued… Next week I will discuss prosthesis and bra fitting after breast cancer surgery
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans or log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591.