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A note on terms:
Everyone has breast tissue and people of all genders can get breast cancer. To be clear and consistent, we use the word ‘breasts’ in our health information, rather than boobs, pecs or chest. When we say breasts, we mean the tissue from your rib cage up to your collarbone and armpits, including your nipples.
What To Do If You Have Found Something Unusual
Noticed an unusual change in your breasts? No need to panic. Our bodies change, and if you’ve noticed a change, it’s a good sign that you know your body! There are lots of reasons why you might have changes to your breasts. Most changes are natural and harmless. 9 out of 10 people who are referred to the breast clinic are not given a cancer diagnosis. However, if you are concerned about a change to your breasts, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
What To Expect When You Contact Your Doctor
Your doctor will probably want to examine your breast tissue, which might include the area under your armpits and up to your collarbone too. You might find it helpful to wear loose clothing or a separate top and bottoms.
It can feel embarrassing to talk to your doctor about your breasts, but they have seen it all before! Here are our tips for your doctor appointment:
What it means if you’re referred to the breast clinic
If your doctor decides to refer you to the breast clinic, they can do so with an urgent or non-urgent referral. Urgent referrals are also called Two Week Wait referrals, because your appointment at the breast clinic will be within 2 weeks. Non-urgent referrals can take between 4-6 weeks. Your doctor might decide to refer you with a Two Week Wait referral, to make sure you are seen quickly. This does not mean your doctor thinks you have breast cancer.
Keep in mind that during the Coronavirus pandemic, services may change and operate differently in different locations. Your doctor still wants to hear from you if you are worried about a change to your chest. Contact your practice or check their website to find out what to do during the pandemic.
Dr Beth Lynch, a member of our Medical Advisory Group and a doctor in Liverpool, is here to reassure you that it is still important to get checked out.
Sara contacted her doctor during lockdown after finding a lump when checking her boobs. She encourages anyone who notices a change to do the same.
“Get to know your body. If you are ever in doubt – get it checked out! You are not wasting anybody’s time – this is your doctor’s job and they’re there to help.”
What To Expect At The Breast Clinic
Your doctor might decide to send you to the breast clinic, so that your symptoms can be checked out by a breast specialist. If you are referred to the breast clinic, it does not mean you have breast cancer, it just means your doctor would like to do some more tests. Depending on the circumstances, the breast clinic might suggest that you bring a friend or family member with you for support. Make sure you have given yourself several hours for your appointment. It might not take that long, but give yourself time in case there is a delay or you need further tests. You will be asked to answer some questions about your medical history and family history. If you have periods, they might ask you about them. The doctor will want to examine your breasts. At the breast clinic you will have one or more of the following tests:
The doctors at the breast clinic might have your test results on the day, but you might have to wait for some results. For example, the ultrasound scans can be understood straight away, but the mammogram and biopsy results can take longer. It could take 2-6 weeks for you to get the results of some tests. The doctor at the breast clinic will explain which tests you need, and talk through any questions you have.
Where To Look For Support
If you are given a breast cancer diagnosis, you will be given information about available support and your next appointments. You might also be given the details of a Clinical Nurse Specialist who will be looking after you. Here are a list of our friends who also offer support:
This information was published in April 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
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