Newham GP column: Check your breasts and attend screening appointments

Dr Helen Stedeford. Picture: Newham Council

Dr Helen Stedeford. Picture: Newham Council - Credit: © 2020 Andrew Baker

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr Helen Stedeford, of Tollgate Medical Centre, is Newham’s clinical lead on cancer and explains why it is important to know your boobs

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, and the risk increases with age.

Some types are associated with certain genes, so you may be at higher risk if you have two or more close relatives affected, especially if at a younger age.

Having just one relative affected does not indicate a higher risk unless they were under 40 when diagnosed, they had two different cancers or they are male.

Breast cancer is much rarer in men but does occur. If a man notices a lump under his nipple he should get checked by a doctor.

If you’re concerned about family risk speak to your GP, however, the majority of cancers are not inherited and are picked up when women find a persistent lump.

It’s a good idea to examine your breasts regularly so you can notice any changes.

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The change may not be a lump but could be a difference in the skin or nipple – you can find more information here

Lumps can come and go, especially in younger women, but a lump in the same place for more than one menstrual cycle should be assessed by a doctor.

Women aged between 50 and 70 are entitled to screening, which involves having a specialist X-ray every three years to pick up any cancer early.

Check this link for more information in English and other languages

The screening programme stopped during the peak of the pandemic but is now running again so if you receive an invitation letter please book an appointment.

If your appointment was cancelled and you haven’t received a new one yet, please call the screening hub on 0203 758 2024.

The service is following Covid-secure guidance so please don’t attend more than five minutes before your appointment, and go alone unless you need a support worker.

Remember, if you notice a change in your breast after having a normal screen, it’s still important to get it checked by your GP.

GPs are open and offering face-to-face appointments for those who need physical examination.