Each year, approximately 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and it is currently the most common cancer in British females, with around one in eight women receiving the diagnosis in their lifetime. It is also more prevalent in women who are aged 50 and over.
However, the good news is that deaths from the disease have fallen as a result of earlier diagnosis and improved treatments; a 19% reduction over the last decade.
In many cases, breast cancer is linked to lifestyle factors. The longer a woman’s body is exposed to Oestrogen, through early onset of periods and a late menopause, then the higher the risk. Obesity, alcohol and inactivity also contribute to an increased risk of the disease, with moderate physical activities aiding in the prevention of the cancer.
About 5 to 10% of breast cancers are inherited and anyone with a strong family history of early onset of the disease should see their GP for referral to a genetics service and further investigation.
The most common sign of the cancer is a lump in the breast and the most common area is the upper outer part of the breast.
However, less well known signs of breast cancer can include:
- Nipple discharge
- Recent inversion of the nipple
- Puckering of the skin
- A lump in the armpit
When to see a doctor
If you have any of these symptoms you should visit a GP to be checked out. If necessary, your doctor can then refer you to a rapid access breast clinic where they have what is known as a triple assessment. The current NHS waiting time for this type of service is up to two weeks.
If you visit a private GP practice, like Private GP Extra, you can be referred straight into a fast access breast clinic at a private hospital, where you can either self-pay, or if you have private health insurance you might be covered for the cost. You will receive an examination by a surgeon, an Ultrasound scan or Mammogram, and a sample of the lump done using a fine needle and syringe. This allows a rapid and confident diagnosis to be made in the vast majority of cases.
Treatment is improving all the time, but usually consists of removing the lump and Radiotherapy in order to conserve the woman’s breast. The need for Chemotherapy is determined by a careful examination of the tumour and its genetics. Everyone should be aware of the signs and act promptly, as with improved treatments, an early diagnosis can make a real difference.
Dr Adam Simon is lead GP at Private GP Extra which runs a number of clinics in private hospitals across the North West including Hearing and Wellness Clinic in Hale, BMI The Alexandra Hospital, BMI The Highfield Hospital, BMI The Lancaster Hospital and Prime Health Manchester.
For more information or to book an appointment, please visit https://www.privategpextra.com/appointments/ or call 0161 428 4464.