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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Medical negligence experts set out key signs and symptoms to be aware of and support available following a diagnosis

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, affecting one in seven women. Although rare, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. In the UK alone, around 55,900 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, which equates to more than 150 people a day. 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month acts as a timely reminder of how vital it is that people check their breasts regularly. It also helps raise much needed funds to aid crucial research into the disease and help those and their families who are affected by the condition.

What is breast cancer and how does it develop?

Breast cancer is a form of cancer that starts in the breast tissue. It occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, eventually forming a tumour. 

For women, breast cancer most commonly starts in the cells that line the milk ducts of the breast. For men, it grows in the small amount of breast tissue men have behind their nipples. 

What are the signs and symptoms?

Anyone can be affected by breast cancer. 

The most common symptoms in women are: 

  • A new lump or area of thickened tissue in the breast that wasn't there previously. 
  • Change in size or shape of one or both breasts.
  • Discharge of fluid from the nipple of a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding. 
  • Lump or swelling in either armpit. 
  • Change in the look or feel of your skin, puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness. 
  • A rash usually appearing crusty, scaly, itchy, or redness on or around the nipple.
  • A change in appearance to the nipple - such as becoming sunken into your breast. 

The most common symptoms in men are: 

  • A lump in the breast that is nearly always painless.
  • The nipple turning inwards. 
  • Discharge from the nipple. 
  • A sore or rash that develops around the nipple. 
  • Small bumps in the armpit (swollen glands).

The need for early diagnosis and medical treatment 

The faster that breast cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and the higher the chances that treatment will be successful. 

If there's a delay in diagnosis, this leads to a greater chance of the cancer causing increased harm and can lead to a worse outcome for the patient. 

Breast cancer is often treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The type of treatment will differ based on the individual patient’s needs. 

What are my legal rights following misdiagnosis or delay in treatment?

If you believe that you or a loved one haven’t received appropriate treatment or there has been a delay in diagnosis, then you can speak to a specialist solicitor. They can advise you on whether you may have a legal claim for compensation, and the next steps required to pursue this claim. 

A legal claim doesn’t just provide you with answers. Compensation can help people access the specialist treatment and therapies they may require to either combat the disease or as a consequence of cancer. 

Diagnosis of breast cancer affects not only the patient, but also their loved ones. Irwin Mitchell's Client Support Team help support patients and families affected by cancer.

We can provide support not just with the legal issues you are facing, but also with matters relating to employment, wills, and benefits as well as family issues. 

Support available following diagnosis

There are also several charities that help provide care and support to people following a diagnosis. More information about the symptoms and treatment of breast cancer can be found on the Cancer Research UK website. The charity Breast Cancer Now also has helpful advice on its website.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by breast cancer at our dedicated breast cancer claims section.