Breast cancer: Dr Chris on 'breakthrough' Enhertu drug
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To be able to successfully conquer both stage and screen is hard to come by these days and yet Dame Atkins has mastered it brilliantly. Like her fellow acting dames, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Joan Plowright – who all sat down for a chat in documentary Nothing Like a Dame – Dame Atkins is a three-time Olivier award winner and has most recently starred in ITV series Doc Martin as Ruth Ellingham. At the height of her success in the 90s, the star had to undergo chemotherapy.
Whilst appearing on Broadway the star was diagnosed with breast cancer. Aged 61 the star had to endure a lumpectomy and six months of chemotherapy.
Luckily for the Dame, she was able to overcome the deadly illness, but admits that the illness changed her for good. In an interview with The Spectator she said: “The cancer is in remission, but it has still changed me.
“It’s given me a determination to live life to the full.”
At the time of her diagnosis, American photographer and wife of Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney was also diagnosed with cancer, and together the two got through their ordeals, with “determination, courage and good humour”.
According to the NHS, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
If the condition is caught early there is a good chance of recovery, meaning it is vital and often encouraged by healthcare professionals that women – especially those over the age of 50 – check their breasts regularly.
Breastcancer.org provide the five steps that all women and men should do to check their breasts:
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Here’s what you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
- If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Step two: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Step three: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
Step four: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
Step five: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step four.
Alternatively, if you are worried that you could have breast cancer, you should book an appointment with your GP who will be able to examine you themselves.
There are several different types of breast cancer, which develop in different parts of the breast.
Breast cancer is often divided into either:
- Non-invasive breast cancer (carcinoma in situ) – found in the ducts of the breast (ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS) which has not spread into the breast tissue surrounding the ducts. Non-invasive breast cancer is usually found during a mammogram and rarely shows as a breast lump.
- Invasive breast cancer – where the cancer cells have spread through the lining of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. This is the most common type of breast cancer.
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