BREAST cancer is on the increase, but deaths are falling.
That’s the message from the breast care nurses at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Figures from Breakthrough Breast Cancer show in the NHS Blackpool area, between 2006 and 2008, there were 121 people diagnosed with breast cancer on average each year.
The average number of deaths caused by breast cancer per year – between 2007 and 2009 – was just 31. Between 2000 and 2004, 78 per cent of women with breast cancer were alive five years after their diagnosis.
Breast care nurse Lynette Bracegirdle said the message to local women – and men – was to make sure they showed their breasts some TLC.
She said: “It’s about being breast aware, and this applies to men about their breast tissue, as well as women.
“It’s about knowing what’s normal for you and whether there is something different. So it’s all about TLC.
“TOUCH – feel, if you can feel a lump, or perhaps a thickening or just something which feels different in the breast or armpit.
“LOOK – are they a different size or shape? Does the skin look right, or is it a different texture? Are there any changes in the nipple – is it inverted? Or crusty or is there a discharge?
“CHECK – if you do find something different or out of the ordinary for you, then go to your GP and get it checked out.
“It could well be nothing, but it’s the not knowing which is the worst thing.
“Sometimes people might put off going to their GP because they are frightened. Some people do put it off.
“But the earlier things can be picked up, the quicker they can be treated, and the better the chances are of responding to treatment.
“We are very fortunate here on the Fylde coast, whatever treatment is needed is available.
“And, of course, it could be nothing untoward.
“We would rather see 100 people where it turns out to be nothing, than miss that one person who does need treatment.
“People did used to be scared about the Big C, but cancer is no longer a death sentence.
“Of course, it’s not the same for every single person, and breast cancer cases have increased, but the success rate for treatment has improved greatly.”
A recent improvement in the service at Blackpool was the opening of the new breast care unit last year.
The specialist, dedicated unit provides a fast-track service for patients.
The centre has been purpose-built and contains all the latest equipment, including a £300,000 digital mammography unit and MRI kit to provide quicker and more precise diagnosis.
The unit is able to offer fast turnaround results – the same week as people have their tests, which all take place in one area.
Lynette said: “The new unit has certainly made a big difference.
“It’s transformed the service – made it more streamlined and improved things for patients.
“The environment is really pleasant.
“We now have two quiet rooms for if we need to talk to people.
“Our prosthetic fitting area, is beautiful – we didn’t want it to be clinical.
“We chose lilac as the colour, to reflect the fact Blackpool has a high incidence of men with breast cancer, rather than use pink.”