Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting woman in the UK. In Scotland 1 in 8 woman are diagnosed with it, with around 1000 deaths in Scotland each year.
Breast cancer screening involves an X-ray examination called a mammogram, which tries to detect cancer before it causes symptoms or findings on examination. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat. In Scotland, women between the ages of 50-70 years are invited every 3 years for this examination. Eligible patients registered with Bruntsfield Medical Practice are being invited in May and June this year.
In 2010 during the last screening round, 11 patients from Bruntsfield Medical Practice were diagnosed with breast cancer as a result of the screening.
Woman over the age of 70 are not routinely invited, however you can call the Screening Centre directly on 0131 537 7400 to arrange a 3 yearly assessment. If you miss or do not receive an appointment, and are eligible, you can telephone the Screening Centre also. If you are worried about a breast symptom, you must see your GP who will arrange assessment, if appropriate, at the Breast Clinic at the Western General Hospital rather than the screening unit at Ardmillan Terrace. If you have been seen in the past year in the breast clinic, the minimum interval before repeating the mammogram is 6 months.
Thanks, in part, to the breast cancer screening programme, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with breast cancer is improving. 85% of patients will live for at least 5 years and 75% of patients will live for at least 10 years.
For every 200 woman who attend breast screening every 3 years from 50-70 years old, 15 are diagnosed with breast cancer. 3 of these patient’s cancers would not have caused problems and receive “over treatment”. But the remaining 12 patients receive life saving early treatment.
Mammograms can very rarely cause a cancer on account of the radiation associated with the scan. Also on occasion they can miss a cancer. Equally tumours can develop in the time between screening appointments, so that it is always important to be vigilant and breast aware.
Despite these points, cancer researchers still believe the benefits outweigh the risks in breast screening. Breast screening saves 3-4 lives every day in the UK.
Woman of all ages should be breast aware and regularly check their breasts for changes. Although lumps in your breast or armpit may be harmless, you should get them checked by the GP. Other symptoms to look out for are:
- A lump, area of thickened tissue or bumps in either breast.
- A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
- A lump or swelling in either of your armpits.
- Skin that appears like orange peel.
- Crusting on or around the nipple.
- A leaking nipple which may or may not be streaked with blood.
- Dimples or skin that’s become drawn in.
- A nipple that’s become turned in.
Less than 10% of breast cancer cases are due to inheriting a faulty gene. As breast cancer is so common, it is not uncommon to have one or two extended family members with breast cancer. For most, having a relative with breast cancer doesn’t increase their risk of breast cancer. If you are concerned about your family history of breast and ovarian cancer please see your GP, as it is sometimes appropriate to attend the Genetics Clinic at the Western General Hospital to assess your individual risk further.
Breast Screening Booklet from NHS inform website:
More information can be found from the following websites: