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Breast Health

Importance of monitoring breast health

SHORCUTS What to do next FAQ
Women of all ages are advised to monitor their breast health, as invasive breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with one in eight women developing breast cancer in their lives.

If the disease is caught in its early stages, the patient has a better chance of overcoming the disease, and survival rates are at an all-time high thanks to awareness. Factors contributing to breast cancer include age, reproductive history, exposure to radiation, contraception, hormone levels, and lifestyle factors.

In terms of self-monitoring, it is important to be attentive to any changes in the size, feel, shape and colour of your breasts. Dimpling of the skin, rashes, and nipple discharge are also warning signs. Swellings may appear in the upper breasts and armpits.

Breast lumps are common, usually caused by inflammation of ducts and glands, or may turn out to be cysts, which can be drained to remove excess fluid if they are causing pain or discomfort. In cases where a woman is breastfeeding, there may be lumps or abscesses caused by infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. Other causes of benign breast lumps include fibroadenomas, mastitis, fat necrosis or lipoma.

It is normal to experience changes in the density of your breast tissue, including lumps of various sizes, in the week or so before your period. These changes usually disappear once you have started bleeding.

What to do next

If you notice any of these changes, it is important that you do not hesitate to make an appointment with us for a consultation and examination. If necessary, we can give you an urgent referral for a mammogram or ultrasound, arranged on the same day or within 24 hours.

This is the best way to diagnose whether a lump is cancerous. Call us to make an appointment. Nine times out of ten, a breast lump is benign (non-cancerous).

FAQ

What are the most important things to be aware of with regard to breast health?

It is normal for your breasts to change with your menstrual cycle, but it is always advised that you get any unusual lumps checked out by a doctor, particularly if they don’t go away after your period. Other things to be aware of are changes in skin or tissue texture, nipple discharge, nipple inversion, or puckering of the skin.

When should I start having regular breast check-ups?

Regular breast check-ups should begin around the age of 40, although the risks will be different depending on your family history and other risk factors such as breast density, diet, alcohol and exercise, and whether or not you have had children. Annual mammograms are recommended for all women aged 45-54.

I found a lump in my breast. How do I know if it is benign?

The only way to know for sure if a breast lump is benign is to get examined by a doctor. A painful, soft, and freely-moving lump is less likely to be dangerous than painless, hard, or fixed ones. But it is impossible to know for sure without proper examination.

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Please note that Walk In Clinic is a private medical centre and not an NHS service.