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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

18 October, 2022

Author: Carol Spillane, Advance Nurse Practitioner, Breast Care Team

Back line- left to right

Professor Elizabeth Connolly, consultant breast surgeon, Antonia Tierney, ANP Oncology, Carol Mulholland, Breast Care Administrative Officer, Miranda Foran, Breast Care Administrative Officer, Maeve Stenson, ANP Breast Radiology, Carol Spillane, ANP Breast Care, Stacey Maguire, Breast Care Administrative Officer, Cory Hyland, Breast Care Manager, Alison O Driscoll, Breast Care CNS,

Front line- left to right

Alex Stanley, CNS Oncology, Vindhya Uttaiah, Senior Breast Radiographer, Niamh Byrne, CNS Breast Care, Yvonne Hanhauser, ANP Breast Care, Audrey O Halloran, CNM3 Oncology, Dhafir Alazawi, Consultant Breast Surgeon, Orla McGill, CNS Breast Care

While breast cancer can occur at any age, the risk of developing it increases with age. Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. However, breast cancer will affect 1% of men. Early detection will allow you to access treatment sooner. The national cancer registry statistics suggest that approximately 3500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year (NCRI, 2021).

Most women know that if they get a lump in their breast they need to get it checked by their GP. However, lumps are not the only sign that you may have a breast cancer, so it is important to look out for any of a number of changes that can indicate that a cancer may be present.

Breast awareness

Breast Awareness is a check for health and normality of the breast rather than a check for cancer.

Abnormal changes in your breasts to be aware of:

  • A change in size or shape – it may be that one breast has become larger.
  • Changes in the nipple – in direction or shape, pulled in or flattened nipple.
  • Changes on or around the nipple – rash, flaky or crusted skin.
  • Changes in the skin – dimpling, puckering or redness.
  • 'Orange peel’ appearance of the skin caused by unusually enlarged pores.
  • Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.
  • A lump, any size, or thickening in your breast.

Look for changes by using a mirror so that you can see the breasts from different angles.

Feel for changes: An easy way of feeling your breast is with a soapy hand in the bath or shower. Some women may prefer to feel for changes while lying down. Use the fat pads of your fingers rather than the tips of your fingers to examine your breast. I recommend that you perform your breast self-examination on the same day each month, as this will help you to get to know your breast tissue and help you to recognise if there are any abnormal changes. It is also important to examine the tissue in your armpit as part of your breast self-examination.

It's important to know what is normal for you. Your breasts will go through many normal changes during your life. For example, they are affected by changes in your hormones during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breast feeding and menopause. If you have a new breast symptom, please contact your GP who will refer you to your nearest symptomatic breast clinic.

Lifestyle modifications that may help reduce your risk of breast cancer

Avoiding tobacco or deciding to stop using it is an important part of ANY cancer prevention.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Base your diet on fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources such as whole grains and beans.

Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-calorie foods, including refined sugars and fat from animal sources.

Limit processed meats. 

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active.

REMEMBER

1. Know what is normal for you;

2. Know what changes to look and feel for;

3. Look and feel once a month;

4. Report any changes to your GP immediately;

5. Attend for breast screening from the age of 50.

For further information, see www.ics.ie

Carol Spillane and Yvonne Hanhauser
ANP Breast Care