Becoming breast aware, and understanding how you can proactively support your own breast health, is important to staying well.
Thanks to advancements in imaging technology and radiology, the prevention and early detection of cancers — as well as patient outcomes — are improving all the time.
The KEVII Breast Health Centre regularly performs screening mammograms every day supported by a whole team of experts. Amelia Cook, Breast Unit Manager at the Centre, answers our questions to give more insight into managing your breast health, and what you can expect from a breast screening appointment.
About King Edward VII’s Hospital’s Breast Unit
The King Edward VII’s Hospital Breast Unit offers the most advanced imaging technology which allows us to detect the earliest level of change within the breast, guides earlier interventions which can dramatically improve patient outcomes.
Understanding your own personalised Breast Health is empowering, providing you with confidence for you as an individual with enhanced health and well-being. During your breast screening, King Edward VII’s offers holistic expert support to help you find the answers that you need from our supportive team, including breast specialist nurses, family history counselling and breast awareness services.
1. How often should breast self-examination be done?
Breast self-exams are important because they help you to become ‘breast aware’.
You don’t have to check your breasts all the time, or follow a fixed self-examination routine. What is important, is that you remember to pay attention to your menstrual cycle, as your breasts will look and feel different while you are ovulating, compared to when you may be menstruating. This way you can understand your own breasts better, and what feels right, or usual, for you.
Remember too, to be cautious with examining breast tissue when breastfeeding, as things may change once you’ve stopped.
2. What are the early signs of breast cancer?
Lumps are the most common early symptoms of breast cancer but there are many different signs. This can include symptoms like discharge from the nipple, retracted nipples, dimpling of the skin, and others.
Anything unusual for you, or a significant change in breast appearance without reasonable explanation, could be a cause for concern. Do remember though that this doesn’t mean you have cancer.
3. Does a mammogram hurt?
A mammogram may be slightly uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be painful. Your breast care team will explain the process fully to you, so you know what to expect from your first mammogram.
Often, patients will ask us if their breasts will be completely ‘squished’ or ‘flattened’. The breasts are firmly compressed when undertaking a mammogram, not just to see the tissue but to also reduce the radiation exposure. This doesn’t hurt, but if you are particularly sensitive to compression, this can feel a bit uncomfortable.
4. How long does a mammogram take to perform?
Each patient is unique and a unique approach for each person is considered. The actual mammogram is very quick and can even be completed in 5 minutes!
Some screenings are completed a screening in minutes, while others have taken an hour. At King Edward’s VII’d you will have the time you need to feel comfortable, with sensitivity to your individual needs.
Ask questions during your mammogram — your breast care nurse will be more than happy to provide you with information!
5. Would you recommend a breast MRI or ultrasound over a mammogram?
No. A mammogram is the gold standard in breast screening. You should always choose a mammogram unless you are under 35 and asymptomatic (which means when you aren’t showing any symptoms).
6. My breasts have felt really sore and tender – should I be worried?
Not always. Breast tenderness may be due to your hormone cycle (cyclical), an ill-fitting bra (non-cyclical) or due to strenuous exercise which has affected muscles around the breast (chest wall pain). These are all factors to consider.
Of course, any persistent pain and/or tenderness should be examined further.
7. Should men self-examine?
Absolutely! There is still a lack of awareness surrounding male breast cancer – in fact, most men who attend screenings do so because their partner has picked up an abnormality. Men should be breast aware in the same way women are.
8. A few women in my family have had breast cancer – should I go for further testing?
This is dependent on the family history, and we recommend patients be given the right guidance before going for an elective mammogram.
For example, this could be considering important factors such as whether the breast cancer is present in your family history in what is called the first tier (your mother or grandmother).
We have a genetics team at King Edward VII Hospital where family history can be talked through with guidance by the breast specialist nurses at the very first step, breast health and general well-being advice.
9. Can I go for a mammogram if I have breast implants?
Of course! The breast implant will still remain intact, so you don’t need to worry about your implants being ‘squished’.
10. What happens if I need further testing?
We provide a one stop clinic if any changes are detected to complement and support personalised care and treatment. If there is any cause for concern an ultrasound will be performed and from here a biopsy will be taken to be examined further.
Our whole team of clinical experts includes breast surgeons, breast specialist nurses, specialist radiographers and radiologist who deliver gold standard care and treatments, supported by holistic services including a counsellor, a well-being coach, physiotherapists, a menopause specialist, a comfort support consultant and links with holistic service providers such as hypnotherapy. Our centre is here to support you as an individual and we aim to elevate your confidence.
- If you are concerned about your breast health, you should always consult your GP first (Don’t have a GP?)
- The KEVII Breast Health Centre has been purposely designed to be a place of comfort, reassurance and expert care for our patients and their families.
- If you are concerned about your breast health or have been advised to get a mammogram, please do not hesitate to contact the team. If your enquiry is urgent, please contact us here.