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The 'C' Word - come and join our Q&A on breast cancer, with Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Care

(74 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 24-Sep-10 11:51:32

In October, we're launching a new awareness-raising campaign on Mumsnet, called The 'C' Word. No, not that 'C' word, norties - this is all about the three key cancers which primarily affect women: breast, ovarian, and cervical.

We're kicking it off with a Q&A about breast cancer, aided by the delightful folks at Breast Cancer Care and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Between them, they can answer pretty much any breast cancer-related question you care to throw at them - from what to do if you've noticed changes in your breasts, through breast cancer in pregnancy, to what's happening at the cutting edge of research.

Breast cancer is still the second biggest cause of death from cancer amongst women in this country, and almost all of us will know someone who's been affected by it (look out for Carrie in You Magazine this Sunday, talking about the very sad and early death of her own ma). So now's your chance to get those niggling questions answered - whether they're about causes, family history, prevention or treatment.

Post your questions by the end of Wednesday please - the team will get the answers back to us as quickly as they possibly can, so do keep an eye out.

PS. Look out for Q&A's on ovarian cancer and cervical cancer, coming up a bit later in October.

I guess that my having had ds later in life (at 38) and not being able to breastfeed him might have contributed to my bc - don't smoke,weight is fine,don't drink too much and have reasonably healthy diet.

Easywriter Tue 28-Sep-10 13:52:18

As a large breasted woman 36J I really worry about checking my breasts, especially after Embarrasing Bodies said a satistic that 7 out of 10 lumps will be missed by a woman checking her breasts.

I feel as if I would be able to check the higher areas of breast tissue (near my collarbone and under my arms) reasonably well. However with the tissue that one would conventionally think of as being a breast I think I would be very lucky to feel anything as there is so much tissue.

I am 42 this month and so nearing the screening age (which only increases the worry). Do you recommend any addition methods to check larger breasts and is there anywhere that will offer me screening without relieveing me of £200 into the bargain?

(I have spoken to my Doctor about this and whilst they are sympathetic they say there is no free/nearly free NHS screening available in Sheffield until you become 50).

Travellerintime Tue 28-Sep-10 14:20:10

What are the pros/cons of starting screening from age 40, as opposed to 50?

My mum had bc, and my grandmother too. Both got it post-menopause - my mum's outlook is very positive (early diagnosis) and my grandmother, well, altho' she's now dead, it wasn't bc that killed her. I've been told my risk is no higher than others, but I still worry and have wondered whether I should look into early screenings.

smee Wed 29-Sep-10 10:31:49

Travellerintime, my friend had screening from 40. Her Aunt died of BC, so they said she qualified. Maybe it's dependent on where you live? That's an interesting question too.

I think it's harder to check pre-menstral women as their breasts are denser, so harder for a mammogram to pick things up on. When I was diagnosed, younger women at the clinic seemed to only have ultrasounds, but those can pick up lots and lets face it there's no x-ray involved, so it's safer. I asked my GP about it and he says he thinks cost has an awful lot to do with it.

cupcaked Wed 29-Sep-10 11:31:05

Also screening is not foolproof either, and may even lull people into false sense of security so they don't bother self checking if getting mammogram. I speak from experience. I went for mammography at age 44 after a friend was diagnosed in early 40s. It was done through local cancer charity Action Cancer, a year before I found the lump by accident. I was not self checking regularly, have to say because I thought mammography would have picked anything nasty up. But clearly a lot can happen in a year. I say again, know your own..

itsonlyaphase Wed 29-Sep-10 13:22:47

As a topic close to me I felt compelled to add something. My sister was diagnosed at aged 46 in February and is one of the most healthiest people in the world, a fantastic diet, exercised regularly, never smoked, drank very little alcohol, breast fed both her children, one of them for 2 years, basically did everything that one should. So whilst you can take every step possible to arm yourself against cancer, nothing can ever give you a guarantee that it won't happen to you. Live every day to its fullest and keep vigilant about checking yourself and keeping up regular screening appointments.

MrsThisIsTheCadillacOfNailguns Wed 29-Sep-10 14:57:31

You can discount 'hormones given to cattle',this practice is banned in the UK and EU,however is allowed in the US and other countries.

DinahRod Wed 29-Sep-10 17:11:50

Ultrasound isn't offered routinely on NHS, or at least not in my area, for under 40s even if you have a history of b/c in the family - I asked about having it. Apparently ultrasound gives a lot of false alarms which is why they won't do it and you have to wait to 40 for mammograms instead, although I understand it is offered in other countries.

sandripples Wed 29-Sep-10 17:50:26

Lisad123

To start a response to your question, I think the main thing is to go and see the person, and offer help. Things which have helped me through the last year of treatment have been;

- visits for tea/coffee/ a chat
- people making soup and flapjack and just bringing it round (+ various other recipes)
-People giving me lifts to hospital for various appointments and treatments such as chemo or radiotherapy
- people coming out for a walk or a visit to a garden. I couldn't walk every day but frequent walks have been importnat and sometimes its nice to have company

Many dear friends have also brought gifts such as flowers and books and all have been very much appreciated. A neck cushion, and plants have also been very nice. Be careful about toiletries as patients cna't use them while on radiotherapy, but at the end of treatment - lovely! be acreful also about cood as some people go off a lot of things. (The soup etc were great but I was not put off many foods)

You need to be sensitive to what the individual wants of course. Some people don't want to discuss their situation very much, others prefer to be very open. And I didn't want visitors all the time, so you need to be able to accept that as well.

Thanks for asking this question. I have felt hugely well supported by my friends and family over the past year, and it helps a lot.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 29-Sep-10 22:42:49

Hope am not too late. I wanted to know who was eligible for BRAC gene screening and for whom would it be useful. My mum died of BC at 50 after being diagnosed at 48. My grandma was much older. About 15 years ago we were told we couldn't be tested, but could we now and would it be useful. If I found I had gene I would definitely take action.

Thanks

cupcaked Wed 29-Sep-10 23:18:19

Sandripples has listed for me also exactly the things that have helped. Think I appreciated most of all the unobtrusive help, eg those that left a cottage pie at the gate during chemo week and tiptoed off with a text to tell me it was there. What I most unappreciated were unannounced visits from ppl i didn't know very well, esp when they stayed for ages, happened a couple of times.. But knowing that so many cared was such a huge thing, and I think would be even more comforting to know that my family has such a support army if, God forbid, it were to all go pear-shaped on me down the line a bit.

supergreenuk Thu 30-Sep-10 08:27:04

I have a lump. Very different from breast tissue and I would say pin head size. I went to get it checked out at the breast clinic. They gave me a scan and said it was fine but come back in 3 months if it is still there or has got bigger.
Can you tell me.....is it possible they think it could still be something if they want me to go back for further test in 3 months. Why not do further tests now?

smee Thu 30-Sep-10 13:28:22

supergreenuk, they'd have done a biopsy if they were at all alarmed, so I'd say you're okay. It sounds as though it was a cyst, but I'd have thought they should have told you more details. Why not call them and ask? Might set your mind at rest.

whethergirl Thu 30-Sep-10 20:24:48

Just wanted to say that there are obviously high risk factors but that we are all indvidual and our bodies don't always follow statistics. I had BC when I was 27 (11 years ago) and no-one in my family had it or has it since, so to get it at such a young age in these circumstances was against all the odds.

I'd also like to say, without rocking the boat or worrying anyone, that having seen oncologists now on a regular basis for check ups for the last 11 years, I have found there is sometimes a difference of opinions.

My current oncologist (who I've only seen for the last few years) for example, told me to give up extended breastfeeding and to think cautiously about getting pregnant again! He thinks that such big hormonal changes could trigger cancer hormones. I was devasted as I always thought bf kept it at bay. I'll never forget, he told me "Your boy is big enough now. Enough of this breastfeeding" - (my ds was nearly 2) and that was my first consultation with him! He also said the lumps are harder to spot during bf. He told me to stay away from HRT in the future, he was in no doubt that there is a definite link and even told me many of his patients were taking HRT when diagnosed (although I do think that might possibly be because of the age group bc is associated with). Also as soya milk user, I asked him if this was safe and he said nothing has been proven and that bc is lower in asian countries where a lot of soya is consumed. However, due to the oestrageon he still advised me to avoid it with his better safe than sorry policy!

All this information alarmed and angered me because no-one mentioned anything about bf, pregnancy, soya or hrt during my treatment. I mean even if they are theories, shouldn't we still be made aware so that we can decide for ourselves?

Also, during and for several years after (much to the disgust of my current oncologist!) I took the pill. My previous oncologists never brought it up and my doctors who knew I'd had BC kept prescribing it. My current oncologist told me that I might as well have been taking BC hormone pills!

To be honest, I don't like my current oncologist very much although I've heard he is exceptionally good. He makes me feel that it's really quite easy to get bc, whereas I feel after 11 years of being clear, it's unlikely to come back.

whethergirl Thu 30-Sep-10 20:27:31

Just wanted to also add for those asking about how to identify lumps, I don't know if mine was the norm but I felt a very solid lump, like a ball, it was very definite and unusual and not like normal breast lumps. I never used to check myself back then, but luckily the lump just happened to be in an awkward position and I kept feeling it "catch" on something inside my breast.

wubblybubbly Thu 30-Sep-10 20:51:43

I would really like to see an awareness campaign that covers all the different types of breast cancers, particularly inflammatory breast cancer, which doesn't present with a lump and is still, far too often, misdiagnosed.

I didn't have a clue that there were so many different types of breast cancer. I naively thought that large or painful lumps were nothing to worry about.

From talking to friends and family, it seems many women still don't actually know what to look for, beyond the pea sized, painless lump.

kayme Thu 30-Sep-10 22:30:31

How do you check if you are breast feeding? As your boobs feel differnt.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Oct-10 14:32:12

Many thanks for all your questions that we've sent over to the folks at Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Care. As there are so many questions, it may be a week before we link through to the archive, but we'll let you know as soon as the answers are up from this thread (as well as the home page etc.)

Renaissancewoman Fri 01-Oct-10 14:40:41

My questions are about causes and the current research results:

1.Is there any evidence that larger breasted women are more prone to breast cancer?
2. Is there any evidence that breastfeeding helps reduce the incidence of breast cancer. If yes, is there any evidence that longer term breast feeding further reduces incidence of breast feeding eg breast feeding children to beyond 18 months of age, 3 times?
3. Is there any evidence of a link between diet rich in animal fat/dairy foods being causative in breast cancer? Conversely is there any evidence of vegetarians having lower rates of breast cancer?

Thankyou

poshsinglemum Sun 03-Oct-10 00:18:08

IMO everything can cause cancer. My mum hasn't had HRT, has never smoked etc and she still has got mouth cancer. We now live on a toxic planet. There are so many carcinogens. Enjoy each day. Carpe diem! cancer is a terrible thing but it dosn't always mean a death sentance.

Mumsie87 Sun 03-Oct-10 18:12:53

I have recently found out my nan who is my dad's mother has had breast cancer for three years. She has been treated for it. When i found out i was worried for me and my sister is there a chance i could be at risk due to family history?

jenisurvivor Fri 08-Oct-10 22:19:34

Hi sandripples and the other lady,

The lump they found with me was at my 50's check too and low and behold ended up having the same treatment as you and completed radiotherapy end of April. I was at Guy's and St Thomas's they were a wonderful team and were there for me 24/7 as I had nobody at home to look after me.

Mine wasn't a lump so much as an indentation when I lifted my arm, like a puckering and I had noticed a difference a short while before and thought it was odd.

Anyway hope you're all alright out there, pretty tough wasn't it?

sandripples Sat 09-Oct-10 13:12:08

Thanks for your message Jenisurvivor. Yes I'm doing fine thanks (apart from a frozen shoulder at the mo!)

Hope you are also keeping well.
Sandripples

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 11-Oct-10 17:15:39

Hello

Just to let you all know that Breast Cancer Care and Breakthrough Breast Cancer have now sent their answers back to us - we've put them over here.

Thanks again to everyone who posted questions.

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