Fear not because leading charity Breast Cancer Care has teamed up with Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa to share potentially life-saving information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
Alexa will now be able to guide women through a breast check, highlighting the eight most common signs and symptoms of the disease.
Developed in partnership with the charity's expert clinical team, Breast Cancer Care hopes that Alexa's new powers will help women to feel more confident about checking their breasts.
Many of us tend to only look out for a lump, but there are a number of other signs we need to be aware of – and Alexa won't let you forget about them.
Addie Mitchell, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, says: “We know a third of women in the UK aren’t regularly checking their breasts, so having Alexa on hand to guide them will help empower many with the confidence to build this potentially lifesaving habit into their routine.
“Whatever your age it’s so important to get to know your breasts, and if you do spot anything unusual – be it a lump, redness or an inverted nipple – get it checked out by your GP. Anyone with any questions or concerns can call Breast Cancer Care’s expert nurses on 0808 800 6000.”
And women who actually have breast cancer will also benefit from Alexa's knowledge.
The tool will be sharing the latest information, inspiration and tips from the charity's end-of-treatment support app, BECCA, which can now be read out in Alexa's daily briefing.
These briefings will include five carefully selected articles, designed to help women adapt to life after breast cancer.
They can be on anything from healthy eating to managing long-term side effects, as well as empowering blogs by people who have had a breast cancer diagnosis.
One in three women fail to regularly check their breasts, and a fifth of these women say it is because they don't know how to do it.
Mr Kislaya Thakur, an expert at BMI The Blackheath Hospital in South London, previously told us that: "The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump usually found by patients themselves.
"However other symptoms can indicate breast cancer.
"These include blood stained nipple discharge, nipple inversion or flattening, dimpling or tethering – including an orange-peel appearance – of the skin over the breast, lumps in the armpit or neck, or any redness which may suggest inflammation or persistent pain."
Of course, there are a host of reasons why you might find a lump, dimpling or nipple discharge other than cancer, but it's always worth getting any changes checked out by a GP immediately.
Other signs include:
1. Change in breast size or shape
Breasts can swell with pregnancy, breastfeeding and periods. But changes can also be indicative of something more sinister – you'll know what's usual for you. Get anything else checked.
3. Redness or a rash
It is important to look out for signs of reddening or a rash, on the skin and around the nipple.
A rash in this area could just be triggered by new washing powder, or a lacy bra irritating the skin.
"But, if it's an ongoing issue, it could be a sign of something more serious," Carolyn warned.
2. Nipple discharge
If a liquid comes out without you squeezing your nipple, and you're not breastfeeding, get it checked – especially if its blood.
3. Swelling in the armpit or around the collarbone
Lumps are the most common sign of breast cancer but they don't always have to appear in the breast.
Breast tissue can be found under armpits and up to the collarbone – so make sure you check those areas during your self-examinations.
4. Change in skin texture
If the skin around your nipple starts to dimple or feel a bit like orange peel, it could be a sign of cancer.
A recent survey by Breast Cancer Care found that one in six women didn't know that that could be a sign of the disease.
5. An inverted nipple
Any changes to your breasts need to be checked as soon as you notice them. If you've always had inverted nipples, fine. If they suddenly seem to be pulled inwards, it could be a warning sign.
6. Constant pain
While pain in the breast area is really common, if it doesn't disappear after a reasonable amount of time, get it checked at your GP.
Remember, if anything about your breasts changes, it's always worth getting checked over by your doctor.
Both the Taking care of your breasts and the BECCA Daily 5 are available now as an Amazon Alexa skill.
All you have to do is search for "Breast Cancer Care" in the skills part of the Alexa app or Amazon website.
How to prevent breast cancer
The causes of breast cancer aren't fully understood yet, so it's not known if it can be prevented altogether – but there are a couple of things you can do to minimise your chances:
Diet and lifestyle
Regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet are recommended for all women as they can help prevent many conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer.
Studies have looked at the link between breast cancer and diet, and although there are no definite conclusions, there are benefits for women who:
- maintain a healthy weight
- exercise regularly
- have a low intake of saturated fat and alcohol
It's also been suggested that regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by as much as a third.
If you've been through the menopause, it's particularly important that you're not overweight or obese. This is because these conditions cause more oestrogen to be produced by your body, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Studies have shown women who breastfeed are statistically less likely to develop breast cancer than those who don't.
The reasons aren't fully understood, but it could be because women don't ovulate as regularly while they're breastfeeding and oestrogen levels remain stable.
There are a number of treatments open to those women who have an increased risk of developing the disease.
Your level of risk is determined by factors such as your age, your family's medical history, and the results of genetic tests.
The two main treatments are surgery to remove the breasts (mastectomy) or medication.
You can find out more from the NHS.
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