Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Although most women develop this disease are over 50, younger women can also be affected.
About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. However, there is a good chance of recovery if it is detected in its early stages.
For this reason, it’s vital that women examine themselves regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.
In rare cases, breast cancer can develop in men. If you want to read more about male breast cancer, please click here
Breasts consist mainly of milk-producing lobes and ducts that carry milk from lobes to the nipple. Lobes and ducts are surrounded by supportive tissue, fat and skin.
Women’s breasts do not look exactly the same and it is common to see some variation between the two breasts. It is also common for them to change their shape slightly and the way they feel according to the time of the menstrual cycles and age of the woman. Therefore, it is very important for every woman to know her breasts and the way they feel by doing regular breast self-examination. Women should report any changes (whatever trivial) immediately to their GP. Having said that, most changes do not represent cancer.
The word “Cancer” describes abnormal cells that grow and invade healthy cells in our body. Cancer affects all people regardless of their age, gender or ethnic backgrounds. There are over 200 different types of cancer.
Breast cancer is a group of cancer cells that can then invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. It is not one disease and there are different types and stages of this disease. Some of them are sensitive to hormones, sensitive to targeted therapy and some are sensitive to neither and therefore called triple negative breast cancers.
A risk factor is anything that increases the risk of getting a disease like cancer.
Having one or more of the following risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cancer. Many people who have them never get it and some people with no risk factors develop it.
There are two groups of risk factors:
Risk factors that we cannot change or reverse:
- Getting older (>45 years)
- Early menarche
- Late menopause
- Previous primary breast cancer
- Certain benign conditions
- Family history of breast cancer
- BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation carriers
- Dense breast tissue
- Previous radiotherapy to the chest
Risk factors that we change or reverse:
- The use of oestrogen-progesterone oral contraceptives.
- Obesity in post-menopausal women.
- Lack of physical exercise
One way to reduce the risk of this cancer is by doing regular physical activities like 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate to high-intensity physical exercise. Other ways include staying at a healthy weight, reduce alcohol consumption and avoiding hormone replacement therapy. Breastfeeding may offer protection against this disease.