Breast cancer affects more than 2,800 women every year and is the most common cancer in women in Ireland.
According to the Irish Cancer Society, breast cancer is rare in women under the age of 30 and occurs more often in women over the age of 50.
Men also develop breast cancer but this is very rare: about 15 men develop breast cancer each year in Ireland.
Although most people are aware of breast cancer, many women are still not breast aware.
The Society has called on the Government to keep its promise to screen women between the ages of 65-69 for breast cancer.
The Government said the extension of BreastCheck would take place during 2014 but then made a decision to defer it.
At least eighty-seven lives are being lost to breast cancers every year due to the delay in screening the upper age group of women, according to the Society.
The Irish Cancer Society is also using its Paint it Pink campaign to encourage women who are aged between 50-64 and have been invited to their free breast screening appointment by BreastCheck, to attend their appointment.
Anyone who is concerned about breast cancer should contact the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline Freefone 1800 200 700 or visit www.cancer.ie.
BE BREAST AWARE
It is important that every woman is breast aware. This means knowing what is normal for you so that if any unusual change occurs, you will recognise it. The sooner you notice a change the better, because if cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts from time to time.
Changes 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
* constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit
Techniques for checking your breasts
* 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 prefer to feel for changes while lying down.
The 5 point breast awareness code:
Know what is normal for you
Know what changes to look for
Look and feel your breasts
Discuss any changes with your GP without delay
Attend for routine breast screening if you are aged between 50 and 64
Know what is normal for you
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.
Your menstrual cycle: Each month, when you are having periods, your breasts often change. They can become bigger, tender and lumpy usually before a period starts and return to normal once the period is over. Some women, however, may have tender, lumpy breasts throughout their cycle.
Pregnancy & breast-feeding: The changes that occur during your menstrual cycle continue during pregnancy. While breast-feeding, your breasts may be very enlarged, firm and tender; this is normal at this time. However, you should continue to check your breasts and discuss any unusual changes with your GP.
Menopause: After the menopause your breasts will feel softer and they may get bigger or smaller. If there is a change in only one breast, you should discuss this with your doctor. HRT hormone replacement therapy may cause your breasts to feel firmer and quite tender.
Positive steps to protect yourself against breast cancer
Be a healthy weight
Being a healthy weight is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cancer. Being overweight after the menopause can increase your risk of breast cancer. This is because fat cells in your body make hormones and high levels of certain hormones increase your cancer risk.
By eating a healthy diet and being physically active every day helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
Women who are physically active have a lower risk of breast cancer than less active women. Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on five or more days a week. Moderate physical activity is any movement that makes you feel warm and breathe a little deeper.
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Some recent research suggests that smoking may increase the risk of breast cancer. It is important to note that smoking causes 30% of all cancers.
Breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding helps to protect mothers from breast cancer. It is best to breastfeed your baby for the first six months. The longer a woman breastfeeds her baby, the more she reduces her breast cancer risk.