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

(75 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.

Ewe Fri 24-Sep-10 11:56:29

Excellent idea.

My question is about checking breasts, I do try to remember to do it and have seen the literature telling you how to to do it etc. Part of me thinks, I guess I would notice if there was anything out of the ordinary, another part of me thinks there is no way I would notice unless it was VERY obvious.

How obvious would a lump in the breast be? They're so textured anyway I find it hard to tell if it's a normal lump that's always been there that is just part of me or if it's something unusual - I just can't remember from one month to the next.

Imbecileningles Fri 24-Sep-10 12:28:49

Kate, thanks for posting this, I agree a very good idea.

I'm also sorry to hear that Carrie lost her mother so young.

Ewe, I wonder if there is such a thing as a baseline mammogram, or similar - a bit like mole mapping for people at higher risk of skin cancer.

AbricotsSecs Fri 24-Sep-10 13:01:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Malificence Fri 24-Sep-10 13:11:27

I hope I can get an answer to my question as I have never got a straight one yet from any doctor.

That is, are women whose mothers had breast cancer whilst pregnant, more at risk or even less at risk?

My own mother was diagnosed with it shortly after my birth and died before I was one ( she was early 40's and had 6 other children) , this was 1966 so a long time ago in terms of diagnosis and treatment - it was said at the time that pregnancy had increased the aggressiveness of the cancer.

I've been told I don't need an early mammogram ( I'm 44) but would be interested to know whether it would actually be advisable.

RageAgainstTheTeen Fri 24-Sep-10 13:17:43

I'd like to ask a question in regards to breast cancer and the risks due to family history.

Both my aunts from paternal and maternal side have suffered with breast cancer.

My paternal aunt had a double mastectomy and is now in remission in her late 50's.
My maternal aunt has Inflammatory Breast cancer and sadly has terminal secondaries.She is in her late 30's.

Am I at a great risk of either type of breast cancer and should I be screened earlier than normal,I am in my 30's.

DinahRod Fri 24-Sep-10 13:37:40

My Qs are:

- are mammograms any more reliable than 20 yrs ago?

- can you be brca 1 & 2 tested without having surviving female relatives?

- I do not smoke, drink and I bf my children, but diet could be better - how significant are these factors?

- If you have a history of b/c in your family (mother had aggressive b/c at 45 pre menopause, both breasts, died aged 52; gt grandmother & my maternal aunt also had b/c but post menopause) is it possible/advisable to request a preventative subcutaneous (nipple sparing) mastectomy?

DinahRod Fri 24-Sep-10 13:42:06

Ought to add, have had my b/c genetic tree done 2 yrs ago and qualify for early mammograms starting at 40 - but given my mother had yrly mammograms in her 40s due to dense breasts/cysts it sadly did not prevent her dying from the disease.

lisad123isgoingcrazy Fri 24-Sep-10 14:29:08

i think its very hard for woman to do a breast exam, and wonder weather its would be a good idea to offer breast exams at GPs, nurses or when you go for smear ect?? I have only been offered once when i found a lump (was nothing) but still always wonder if im doing it right.

Ellybod Fri 24-Sep-10 15:03:20

With billions being spent globally on cancer research, do you have any thoughts on what is causing consistently high rates of breast (or any of the various) cancers? Heredity is a factor relating to vulnerability but what is going on to cause breast cancer?

banana87 Fri 24-Sep-10 15:32:14

My question is: Both grandmothers (maternal and paternal) had breast cancer, and my maternal aunt. Does this make me higher risk? And at what age should I start having mammograms given this potential pre-disposition?

MmeLindt Fri 24-Sep-10 16:31:41

For the past 18 years I have lived abroad, first in Germany and for the past 2 years in Switzerland.

This morning I had my third smear at my gynae here in Switzerland, as we are reminded on a yearly basis to go for a smear. At the same time, it is normal for the doc to check the patients breast and advise on the best way to check one's breasts.

It does make me feel a bit better knowing that if there are any changes then they will be picked up early, but is there evidence that Switzerland and Germany have lower cancer rates?

sockapoodle Fri 24-Sep-10 16:42:48

I have brca 1, DD not yet been tested. If she doesn't have the gene is her risk the same as every other woman? Or would she still be higher risk due to all the women (And men) in my family who have been affected?

Also what is the situation for genetic selection ivf (that is the wrong term I'm sure) regards the brca genes? Is it available on the NHS? has it become more popular?

pinkbasket Fri 24-Sep-10 17:15:50

My father's mother had breast cancer, had the breast removed and died 6 years later when cancer came back and was in several places. Am I at risk? Both Grandfathers died of lung cancer too.

PandaEis Fri 24-Sep-10 17:30:22

ok so my question is...

my mum and maternal GM and greatGM all had BC in their 30s and at the time me and my sister were told we would need yearly screening (mammagrams etc) starting 10 years before my mum was diagnosed (she was diagnosed at 38) i spoke to my GP at my last appointment and he said that despite my mum having agressive fast forming BC (lump appeared within 2 weeks and was stage 2 when biopsy takenshock that i wouldnt need to be referred for preventative screening due to my age. i am 28 so 10 years younger than my mum at diagnosis. is it still process for the preventative screening to be done or is it all based on post menopausal women and i would have to have a lump to be checked??


MIssAnneThrope Fri 24-Sep-10 20:49:16

This is great.

My mother died in her fifties of ovarian cancer, but as far as I know there isn't a family history of breast cancer. I know there is a connection between the two, but I'm not sure what it is.

How do I find out, on the NHS, whether my mother's ovarian cancer makes me more likely to develop breast cancer - GPs seem to fudge the answer every time.

custardismyhamster Fri 24-Sep-10 22:01:10

My question is very similar to RageAgainstTheTeen's

my paternal aunt died recently due to breast cancer, and my paternal grandma and grandad both died of cancer (not breast)

Am I therefore at higher risk due to family history, or the same as anyone else?

10poundstogo Fri 24-Sep-10 22:57:30

My Mum and 2 aunts have had BC, one aunt then went on to develop ovarian cancer and died. My Mum has had gene testing and it said that nothing was found, but apparently they cannot rule it out, they just did not find it. Would it be worth getting my own risk checked? My Dad has also gone on to get kidney cancer so the pair of them have been in treatment, so its been on my mind a bit re what risk I may have inherited and then passed onto dc's.

Also is it true that I should steer clear of HRT when the time comes? I was on the pill for years before having DC's, will this increase the risk to me in the context of my family history?

strandedatsea Fri 24-Sep-10 23:30:23

Is there, or do dr's believe there may be, any link between (emotional) stress and breast cancer - or in fact, any cancer?

This is a great idea, whoever thought of it. Thanks.

C8 Sat 25-Sep-10 07:58:52

Yes. The risk increases the more people in your family have had breast cancer. mamograms are no done on someone as young as you beacause the breast tissue is more dense.
However you should consult your doctor now so that they can advise when they will start screening, you may have to go on a waiting list.They will go over how to check yourself properly and give more sound advice.
I'm a nurse and teach braest awareness, any questions fire away!

ladylush Sat 25-Sep-10 09:43:43

I agree that self-examination is difficult because breasts can be lumpy anyway - so it's hard to know what lumps were already there iyswim. Even if I was shown how to examine my breasts I still don't think I'd be able to do so competently. I'd like to see a facility whereby one can turn up and get checked - even if it's for a fee. That would put my mind at rest. Are mammograms still aimed at women 50+? My risks aren't particularly high - maternal grandmother died of bc post menopause, but I know of several women who have contracted it despite an absence of family history of ca.

notobvious Sat 25-Sep-10 15:33:40

I'm on HRT and it has transformed my life, I'm happier, livlier, have my libido back and my skin is great. Since I started taking it I've lost loads of weight, my blood pressure has gone down and I've lost all taste for alcohol. I really want to stay on it forever. It is easy enough to find the figures for the percentage increase in risk after being on HRT for a certain number o;f years. What I want to do is to do a balancing exercise to work out how much risk I'm saving by not drinking or being overweight and balancing that against the increasedrisk of the HRT - does anyone know where I can find the figures?

sandripples Sat 25-Sep-10 15:49:50


I got a breast cancer diagnosis last December and have since had 3 ops, full chemo for 7 motnhs and radiotherapy. My outlook is good but nothing is guaranteed.

Risk factors for developing BC as far as I have read include;

-early start to periods
-having first child over 30
-being overweight
-taking HRT

There could be others but these were relevant to me. On the other hand I breast fed first baby for 2 years and second for 6 months and I am active.

When I told my oncologist that I wished I'd never taken HRT, he said there was only a minimal possibility that this had caused my cancer.

I do think GPs should discuss all these factors with each woman while she is deciding on HRT. When I asked about HRT the GP did not discuss it much at all. HRT did help me too, as you describe, but I still now wish I'd tried to manage without it. We do all age and I now think sometimes we try to pretend we can carry on as we always were, but in fact we need to heed nature, and adapt our life-styles sometimes, rather than just soldier on as if we were still 30.

cupcaked Sat 25-Sep-10 17:25:05

I got a BC diagnosis 6 months ago having found the lump myself, and not through regular self examination, I just found it and knew it felt 'different'. I am a great believer in people knowing their own breasts best, and therefore being in a better position than any clinical service to know what feels different. Mammography is not foolproof either, I was screened about a year before I found the lump, and no abnormality noted, so it can be helpful but is no substitute. I know breasts feel lumpier late in a cycle but mine just felt like a different kind of lump, it was peasized and firmer than normal breast and I wasn't in a lumpy phase of cycle. Am v glad I didn't hang about before getting it investigated. It was v small but grade 3, ie the most aggressive type, and like Sandripples, I have had surgery followed by 6 cycles of chemotherapy and am now receiving radiotherapy. For what it's worth, I was 45 with no identifiable risk factors. One aunt died of breast cancer, but in her late 60s and that's not so relevant at that age. I have 3 children, BF them all for
prolonged periods and have always been thin.

So I am preaching breast awareness for all, no matter what your family history or number of risk factors. Like Sandripples, my outlook is good thanks to finding the lump when it was small, and also to excellent prompt treatment at my local NHS hospital in N Ireland. But as she says there are no guarantees, and if I had found it even a month later I don't think my prognosis would have been as good. Right, off you all go now and check 'em out. Recommend the bath cos they float

sandripples Sat 25-Sep-10 19:31:53

Perhaps I should add that my lump was found during a routine mammogram as I'm over 50. There was nothing to feel at all, even after I knew it was there! So don't skip your screening, anyone over 50!

NHS was also excellent here (Cheshire)

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