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What you need to know about breast cancer to lower your risk

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off here is the essential information about the disease to give you an at a glance guide to predicting and preventing breast cancer:

Breast cancer has been at the top of the news agenda for much of the year, with the revelations that Angelina Jolie and singer Anastacia have both undergone double mastectomy operations. Jolie, to prevent breast cancer, and Anastacia after a second diagnosis of the disease. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when charities promote their research and launch fundraising activities. But even with so much information available – do you know enough to reduce your own risk? Regular breast cancer checks and flag up any potential symptoms early.

How big is your risk of breast cancer?

There’s no one reason why anyone gets breast cancer. But there are factors that increase your risk – some of which you can do something about and some of which you can’t. Risk factors you just have to accept include being female (though men do very rarely develop breast cancer), getting older (your risk goes up every decade), being tall, starting your periods early, going through menopause late, your genetics and if breast cancer is in your family, and the density of your breasts (something you’re unlikely to know, and something there’s nothing you can do about).

One of the most vital things all women should do, whatever their risk, is be ‘breast aware’ and check their breasts regularly for any signs of cancer. Most lumps turn out not to be cancer, but it’s worth getting anything unusual checked out as soon as possible. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome.

Breast checks

Despite charities urging women to check their breasts at least once a month, it’s easy to forget, and can be a scary thought that you’re looking for something you hope won’t be there. But a regular few minutes could save your life. To remind you what to look for think TLC. Touch – feel your breasts and around your armpit for any changes in texture, any lumps or thickenings of the skin. Also note any soreness or pain. Look – Is there any change in the size or shape of your breasts? Note if one seems to have become larger or sunk lower than the other. Also check for any changes in the colour or texture of the skin and the nipple. Also look at the direction the nipple points in – has it become inverted or does it look different from the other? Also keep an eye out for any crusting, rash or discharge from the nipples. Check – If you’ve noticed any changes and are at all concerned, get it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.