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    Private GP Services & Occupational Healthcare in Edinburgh, UK.

    Breast cancer – your questions answered

    Breast cancer – your questions answered

    Posted on September 17th, 2023

    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so the team here at YourGP are playing our part by answering your most common questions about the most common cancer in the world. Sadly, the rate of breast cancer in women has doubled over the past 50 years. However, there is hope because since the mid-1980s, breast cancer mortality rates have decreased by 45%. This is in part due to the advances in treatments and technology, but it is also due to earlier detection. Quite simply, the earlier that breast cancer is detected, the greater the chance of it being successfully treated. So, read on and arm yourself with the facts…

    What causes breast cancer?

    Whilst huge advances have been made in our understanding of breast cancer, scientists still can’t pinpoint exactly what causes it. However, we do know that genes, environment and lifestyle can affect your chances of developing it.

    Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow in an uncontrolled way. Those cells can form tumours which can then spread. It is important to note that this can occur in men as well as women.

    Can you prevent breast cancer?

    There are many factors that can make you more susceptible to developing breast cancer which sadly you cannot change. These include:

    • Being female
    • A larger birth weight
    • Starting your periods early (before age 12) or starting the menopause late (over age 55)
    • Being tall
    • Having higher breast density
    • Having a history of breast cancer in the family

    That said, Breast Cancer UK estimates that around 30% of breast cancer cases in the UK can be prevented by making lifestyle changes. Changes include:

    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Eat a healthy, varied diet
    • Cut out or cut down on alcohol
    • Exercise regularly
    • Breastfeed

    How should I check myself for breast cancer?

    Ideally, you should check your breasts every month. It is best to perform a self-examination around 7-10 days after your period starts, as this is when your breasts are least likely to feel tender or lumpy. Check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits, and remember “TLC” – Touch Look Check:

    • Touch: Can you feel any lumps, bumps or puckering?
    • Look: Stand in front of a mirror and look carefully for any changes
    • Check: If you notice any changes, make an appointment with a GP right away to carry out a thorough check

    What changes should I look out for?

    Everyone is different, so it is important to recognise what is ‘normal’ for you by comparing month on month. Whilst the symptoms listed below do not necessarily mean you have breast cancer, it is essential that you speak to a GP as soon as possible if you notice any of the following changes:

    • A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit
    • A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
    • A change in colour
    • A change to the nipple, for example if it becomes inverted
    • A rash or crusting around the nipple
    • Unusual discharge from the nipple
    • A change in size or shape of the breast

    In addition to looking out for changes, don’t forget to attend your breast screening as soon as you are called. You will automatically receive your first invite for breast screening between the ages of 50 and 53. Then you will be invited every 3 years until you turn 71.

    What should I do if I notice changes?

    If you have any concerns about your breasts, you should contact a medical professional immediately. Here at YourGP, we make that process as easy as possible by offering short notice appointments at our two Edinburgh practices. Choose a date and time that suits you via our simple online booking system, or you can email or call us on 0131 225 5656 and we will ensure that you are seen as quickly as possible.

    I was directed to YourGP by my health insurance when traveling on Scotland. I was with intense pain on my feet and had an appointment with Dr Doogan, and what an incredible doctor she is!

    She explained everything with the most detail and patience possible, listened even with more patience and care, it’s so rare nowadays seeing passionate doctors for their jobs like Dr Doogan.

    Thiago G

    YourGP is regulated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland – the regulator for independent healthcare services across Scotland. Healthcare Improvement Scotland accepts complaints at any time. Contact them at:

    Independent Healthcare Team
    Gyle Square | 1 South Gyle Crescent | Edinburgh | EH12 9EB
    0131 623 4342 |

    YourGP is registered with the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) Registered Office: Station Road, North Street, Havant PO9 1QU.