14th October 2020
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and an opportunity to raise awareness, celebrate survivors and support the many cancer charities who provide valuable care and advice to families affected by breast cancer.
For most of this year coronavirus has paused people’s lives, but it is important not to ignore one of the most common cancers that over 46,000 women are diagnosed with each year in the UK.
The pandemic has caused mammograms, routine appointments and hospital referrals to be postponed and sometimes cancelled. It has meant that there is now a backlog of patients to deal with which has hugely increased waiting times. This, coupled with the fact that people may have avoided trips to their GP in recent months, means that many women may suffered a delayed diagnosis and/or treatment of their cancer.
It is estimated that almost 1 million women in the UK have missed vital breast screenings since the national lockdown was imposed in March and, with localised lockdowns now increasing, there may be many more appointments cancelled or delayed.
A delayed diagnosis of breast cancer can have a devastating impact and it is more important than ever to remind ourselves how to minimise the risks.
Regularly check your breasts
Breast cancer is not always an obvious lump in the breast. Check for any changes including swelling, inflammation, changes to the skin such as dimpling or redness, changes to the nipple, rashes, discharge, changes in size and shape, tenderness or pain. Remember to consider the whole of your chest including around the sides and armpits.
Visit your GP in good time
Time really is of the essence when it comes to potential cancer diagnosis. If you have concerns, book a doctors appointment straight away and make sure you give a thorough explanation of your concerns and symptoms. We appreciate that GP surgeries are very busy but check their website to see if you can email with your concerns or perhaps have a telephone appointment in the first instance.
Push for a referral
If your symptoms do not pass, they become worse, you have a family history of breast cancer or you have niggling concerns about your health then push for a follow up appointment or ask to be referred for a scan.
Many people do not get their breasts checked because they are not aware of when they should worry or they are worried about hearing the worst. Talking more openly with other women, friends and family members may help you or someone you know get checked.
Try not to miss your mammogram
At present appointments may be cancelled and delayed. However, if an appointment is made, please always attend your mammograms or routine check-ups. In England, breast screening is offered to women over the age of 50, up until they turn 71. Most women are invited for their first screening between their 50th and 53rd birthday but those in high risk categories may be seen earlier. Make sure you rearrange if you cannot attend, as this will ensure that the appointment can be used by someone else.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Unfortunately there is not much that can be done to avoid getting breast cancer, or cancer of any form, but research does show that leading a healthy lifestyle can give you a better chance of reducing risk and will put your body in a good place to fight the disease.
Those who are at a very high risk of suffering from breast cancer should speak to their GPs for additionally prevention plans. High risk ladies should check their breasts more regularly and have routine check-ups with a specialist. It is also possible to have genetic testing where there is a family history of cancer, which may help give you peace of mind or help you prepare a plan for the future.
There are many ways that you can show your support, which could save someone’s life and help those charities in desperate need of support this year.
It can be extremely difficult to come to terms with a diagnosis of breast cancer. If you or a loved one has received a late cancer diagnosis due to incorrect advice, cancelled appointments or delayed screenings then it may be worth speaking to a specialist solicitor.
At Lamb Brooks we have a team of experienced female lawyers who are sensitive and compassionate when it comes to supporting women where there has been negligent treatment.
If you would like some advice on the next steps, please ask to speak to a member of the clinical negligence team on 01256 844888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can share your details with our online chat assistant (who is a real person, not a robot!) available any time of day including at weekends.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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