Everyday healthcare practitioners are spreading awareness about checking your breast health. You should pay attention to your breasts and note any sudden changes or symptoms you may have.
Most of the time, it’s nothing serious and symptoms are usually benign. Although if you experience any unusual breast symptoms or have any concerns regarding your breast’s health, you should book in for an assessment with an expert breast specialist, or with your GP.
Why should I get a breast assessment?
You should arrange for a breast assessment if you notice any sudden breast symptoms are cause for concern. Breast symptoms that are worth checking out, include:
- Changes within the breast’s texture, e.g.) thickening of the breast’s tissue.
- Changes to the breast’s skin, e.g.) dimpling
- Sudden changes to the breast’s size and shape.
- A lump found within the breast or armpit.
- Nipple changes, e.g.) an inverted or retracted nipple.
- Redness of flaky skin around the nipple area.
- Discharge or blood coming from the nipple, not breast milk.
- Breast or armpit pain.
- Swelling in your armpit or swelling near your collarbone.
For men in particular, these breast symptoms are worth checking out:
- Lumps found within the armpit.
- Breast or chest swelling.
If you have any of these symptoms, it is very unlikely that they represent a worrying change such as cancer, but nonetheless, they still need to be reviewed by either your GP or an expert breast surgeon.
What happens in a breast health assessment?
During a breast health assessment, an expert breast surgeon or GP will take note of your breast symptoms and perform a breast examination. The process involves:
- A discussion surrounding your breast symptoms, when they first appeared etc.
- A physical armpit and breast examination.
- Screening for the need of a genetic risk assessment.
Following the initial breast examination, the breast examiner will give you a clear explanation of the assessment results. Further investigation may be required following this assessment which includes:
- A breast ultrasound
- A breast mammogram
- A core biopsy
The aim of a breast assessment is to provide patients with direct access to an expert breast specialist, who can give a proper diagnosis and explanation to each individual case. If a cancer is diagnosed, then the options for treatment will be discussed and explained.
Most breast symptoms are either the result of a normal variation in the breast’s tissues or a result of hormonal conditions that are collectively called benign breast disease. It is unlikely that it is breast cancer, but still get checked for that peace of mind.
Why should I get a breast health check-up?
Some people are more susceptible to developing breast cancer than others, either due to gene variations or a family history of the disease.
Genomic medicine (using a person’s DNA to inform about disease risk) allows us to test individuals who may be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer so that we can help advise them on management techniques and treatment options.
I have a family history of breast cancer and I want to get checked.
Some specific rare gene defects can significantly increase an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer. A strong family history of breast cancer makes it a little more likely that these genes are present and you may want to get screened for having these genes.
Invitae BRCA STAT Panel
A breast specialist could have access to perform genetic testing such as an Invitae BRCA STAT Panel in order to detect the presence of BRCA1 or BRCA 2 genes within an individual. If either is detected, a breast surgery consultant will discuss what this means and how it can be managed.
This testing is also useful for women who have had breast cancer and want to know if they are at extra risk of developing breast cancer in their other breast.
Can I get a test to determine my chances of developing breast cancer?
Many women may worry about their chances of developing breast cancer in their life. Utilising genomic medicine, may have access to an AnteBC Test to determine a score that outlines each individual’s risk of developing breast cancer in the next ten years, compared to the average woman of their age in the population.
This AnteBC Test is recommended for women between the ages of 30 and 75. It is suitable for women who do not have a family history of breast cancer but wish to know their risk of developing breast cancer at some point in their life.
The determined score does not definitively indicate whether the person will experience breast cancer in their life, it only predicts their chances of developing it. This test also cannot be used to indicate whether relatives are at increased risk or if the score is hereditary.
Your Breast surgeon could use a combination of the AnteBC Test and the Invitae BRCA STAT Panel in order to give a more complete picture of your breast health and future risks.
Breast health awareness
Whether you are concerned about new breast symptoms that have developed, a family history of breast cancer or present genes, it is always a good idea to remain conscious of your breast’s health.
If you would like to schedule an appointment or check-up to determine your breast’s health, you can do so here.