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Video: Check your breasts for unusual changes

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has urged women in Northern Ireland to be more breast aware.

Speaking during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the CMO said that early detection of breast cancer is vital in saving lives.

Dr McBride said: “Around 1,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Northern Ireland and around 300 women lose their lives to the disease here each year. It is expected that as many as one in nine women will develop breast cancer in their life.

“This is an extremely serious disease and we need to do everything possible to improve survival rates. Early detection of breast cancer is key in improving outcomes for women.”

The CMO emphasised the importance of women being breast aware. He said: “It is really important that all women are familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel at different times. You should know what is normal for you, check your breasts regularly and be aware of any unusual changes. ”

A helpful, easy to follow video clip on breast awareness, including how to check your breasts, is available to watch online .

Unusual changes include:

  • if one breast changes in size or shape
  • a new lump or thickening in one breast or armpit that is different to the rest of the breast
  • puckering, dimpling, inflammation or redness of the skin
  • if a nipple becomes inverted (pulled in), changes shape or points differently
  • rashes on or around the nipple
  • discharge or fluid (not milky) from one or both nipples
  • pain or discomfort in the breast or armpit that is not related to your periods
  • swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone

The CMO continued: “Unusual changes in the breast are often harmless but should always be checked by a GP as soon as possible. Remember, if a change is due to cancer, the sooner it is detected, the more successful any treatment will be.”

Dr McBride also urged women to attend for breast screening when it is offered to them. He said: “In the early stages of breast cancer, you may not have any signs or symptoms. If you are aged between 50 and 70, you will be offered breast screening every three years. It is very important that you attend because it can detect cancer at a very early stage when there’s a good chance of successful recovery.”

Dr McBride went on to say that women can take steps to help reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. He said: “Certain lifestyle choices can affect a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. You can help protect yourself by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and doing regular exercise.”

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