Men and women are urged to be 'breast aware' in October and throughout the year

Maria Panteli, partner and breast cancer claims specialist, in the medical negligence team at law firm Leigh Day, stresses the importance of all women and men to be ‘breast aware’.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which involves thousands of organisations in a worldwide campaign to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research.

Each year, nearly 55,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK.  This equates to one person every 10 minutes.

One in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.  It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under the age of 35.  In the UK, breast cancer is the second biggest cause of death from cancer for women after lung cancer and around 1,000 women die of breast cancer every month.  Breast cancer also affects men, but it is rare - around 400 men are diagnosed each year.  However, it is important that men are breast aware too.

Screening, early diagnosis and treatment can significantly reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme was set up in 1988 and was the first of its kind in the world.  It invites women aged 50 to 70 for screening every 3 years.  The programme aims to detect and treat breast cancer early when the tumour is small and before it has had a chance to spread.

As a trial, the NHS is in the process of extending the programme and is offering screening to some women aged 47 to 73.

Women over the age of 70 will stop receiving screening invitations but they are still eligible for screening and can arrange an appointment by contacting their local screening unit.

Maria Panteli highlights the importance of women carrying out a monthly self-examination and emphasises that, if you have any concerns about your breasts, whether this is a lump, rash, itching, discharge or an area of thickened tissue, you should go to see your GP.  You should not  wait to be invited for screening.

Maria Panteli said:

“Delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis can have a devastating impact on a patient’s treatment options and ultimately their chance of survival.  We are still, too often, dealing with the impact of a late diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis.  It is vitally important, given the improving prognosis at early diagnosis, that this cancer is identified early and the number of deaths reduced.”