Kylie, Sheryl Crow, Cynthia Nixon star of Sex in the City and now the fictional character Sally from Coronation Street, what do all these women have in common? They have all faced real or portrayed public battles with breast cancer, highlighting one of the most common of the female cancers.
There are around 46,000 cases diagnosed every year in England and Wales. With 1 in 9 women affected by breast cancer during their lifetime, the likelihood of someone you know being affected is significant. With early detection there is a good chance of recovery and it is vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.
Many people experience feelings of helplessness, isolation and disbelief when first given the diagnosis of cancer and may want to retreat from and ignore the situation. However, once the initial shock wears off, many often galvanise themselves and start to prepare their bodies for battle with military precision. A major part of that strategy involves researching the condition and improving an often-rudimentary knowledge of the disease and its effects.
Around 1.6 million women receive NHS breast screening a year. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, knowing the questions to ask can help you to understand more about your condition and the treatment.
What should you know once diagnosed?
- At what stage is your cancer?
- When can you expect to start treatment and what side effects might you experience?
- What is the treatment going to achieve? Is it likely to cure the cancer or will it slow down the growth of the cancer and improve symptoms?
- Is there’s someone at the hospital you can contact if you feel unwell, before or after the treatment and do you need to contact your GP?
- There are often practical issues that need to be sorted out (transport or financial matters, for example). Ask if there’s someone at the hospital who can advise you about things such as benefits.
- Jot down questions as they occur to you and take these with you when you see your doctor, consultant and nurse.
NHS Choices has a comprehensive guide to breast cancer, all in one place at www.nhs.uk Aimed at everyone ranging from those interested in lifestyle changes that could decrease the chances of developing breast cancer, to the newly diagnosed and the war weary, who have battled with the illness for a long time and are after inspiring stories from other sufferers.