Taking Control of Your Breast Health

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Find out more at https://breastcancernow.org/. Here we present a comprehensive breast cancer control awareness checklist by Dr. Linda de Caestecker, a Consultant Advisor to Goldster , a digital platform for healthy living and ageing

Breast cancer awareness goes beyond symbolic pink ribbons; it’s about taking proactive steps to reduce risk and enhance early detection. In the United Kingdom, breast cancer stands as a formidable adversary that affects approximately 55,000 individuals annually[1], affecting women from all background and across the age range. While certain risk factors for breast cancer, such as age and family history, lie beyond our control, there are proactive steps we can take to reduce risk and increase chances of early detection and successful treatment. Breast cancer is particularly prevalent in women over the age of 50, with about 8 out of 10 cases occurring in this demographic[2]. Women’s risk of breast cancer increases with age and while we cannot influence how old we are there are some simple things people can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

To combat this serious disease, there is a crucial checklist to empower women in their breast health journey. This comprehensive guide not only provides vital information but also serves as a beacon of hope and a call to action for women everywhere. Your breast health matters, and by taking these steps, you are seizing control of your future.

Breast Screening: One of the most potent tools for early breast cancer detection is regular mammographic screening. The NHS offers a three-yearly breast screening program for women aged 50 to 70. This screening can identify breast cancer before symptoms manifest, significantly enhancing the prospects of successful treatment. According to Breast Cancer Now, breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes.[3]

Self-Examination: Familiarity with your own body is vital. Regularly inspect your breasts for any changes in colour, shape, the presence of lumps, or lumpiness. If you notice any irregularities or changes, promptly seek medical assistance. Astonishingly, over a third (39%) of women in the UK do not regularly check their breasts for potential signs of breast cancer.[4]

Family History: Understanding your family’s medical history, particularly concerning breast cancer, is crucial. Approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases have a hereditary component.[5] For younger women, this knowledge helps identify potential genetic predispositions and can guide screening and prevention strategies, potentially detecting breast cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage.

Physical Activity and Weight Management: Being physically active not only reduces the risk of breast cancer by 20%[6] but also improves your chances of recovery if you do develop the disease. Maintaining a healthy weight or working towards it through proper nutrition and exercise is another essential factor in breast cancer prevention. Excess weight, especially after menopause, heightens the risk of breast cancer. Engage in activities you enjoy, whether it’s walking, exercising, or participating in fitness classes.

Alcohol Consumption: Managing alcohol intake is a vital component of breast cancer prevention. Consuming more than one alcoholic drink per day can increase the risk of breast cancer by about 7-12%.[7] High alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. It’s crucial to limit alcohol to a healthy level or, better yet, opt for non-alcoholic alternatives.

Breastfeeding Support: Encouraging and supporting younger family members to breastfeed, if possible, is helpful. Substantial research evidence shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer by 4.3% for every 12 months of breastfeeding.[8]

This checklist provides a roadmap for women to navigate their breast health journey. By adhering to these guidelines and staying mindful of the alarming statistics surrounding breast cancer, we can empower ourselves and our loved ones to take control of our health and make informed choices that may ultimately save lives.

Breast cancer respects no boundaries, but with knowledge, awareness, and action, we can stand united against it. Remember, breast cancer is a formidable foe, but with diligence and awareness, we can face it head-on and work towards a brighter, healthier future for all.

While for many women, breast cancer is a treatable condition, it is much better to try to prevent or to catch it as early as possible.

About Dr. Linda de Casestecker

Dr.  Linda de Caestecker is a public health doctor and visiting professor at the University of Glasgow.  She trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist before moving into public health due to her strong interest in prevention and population health.  She worked as the Director of Public Health in the West of Scotland for 15 years and now works as a Consultant Adviser to Goldster, to the Why Not Trust and Scottish Government.


[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer/causes/#:~:text=Age,happen%20in%20women%20over%2050

[3] https://breastcancernow.org/about-us/media/facts-statistics#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20the%20most,are%20diagnosed%20with%20breast%20cancer

[4] https://breastcancernow.org/about-us/media/facts-statistics#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20the%20most,are%20diagnosed%20with%20breast%20cancer.

[5] https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/risk-factors/genetics


[7] https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/have-i-got-breast-cancer/breast-cancer-causes/alcohol-breast-cancer-risk#:~:text=In%20a%20group%20of%2050%20women%20who%20drink%20two%20units,50%20to%20develop%20breast%20cancer.


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