Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with around 55,500 women and 370 men diagnosed each year. Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast uncontrollably grow and divide forming a tumour (Cancer Research UK, 2021). Currently, breast cancer risk in transgender people isn’t yet fully understood but there is ongoing research (Bupa, 2021).
Early detection of breast cancer provides a good chance of recovery, therefore understanding symptoms and checking your breasts regularly is important.
Cancer Research provides breast symptoms to look out for:
- A new lump or thickening in your breast or armpit
- A change in size, shape or feel of your breast
- Skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin
- Fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding
- Changes in the position of the nipple
Most breast lumps are not cancerous but it’s advised that you should see your GP if you notice any of these symptoms (NHS, 2019).
Be breast aware
Regularly checking your breasts helps you to be familiar with what is normal for you, to be able to identify any changes early on. When checking your breast, take notice of the size, shape and consistency.
Your breasts can change during your menstrual cycle. Therefore, get used to how your breasts feel throughout the month. Menopause can also affect how your breast looks and feel. See more information on menopause.
It’s important to know that there is no right way to check your breast and every woman’s breast is different.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a 5-point plan for being breast aware:
- Know what's normal for you
- Look at your breasts and feel them
- Know what changes to look for
- Report any changes to a GP without delay
- Attend a routine screening if you're aged 50 to 70
How to check your breasts
This video animation provides a step–by–step guide for checking your breasts.
Breast screening is available for women between the ages of 50 and 70, and is also available for some trans or non-binary people. This screening provides early detection through an x-ray of your breast (Cancer Research, 2020).
You may be invited for a breast screening if you are under 50 with a higher than normal risk of developing breast cancer. This may be due to a genetic predisposition or family history. Speak to your GP if this is the case and they can support you through this (Bupa, 2022).
It is important to continue to check your breast even if you go for regular screening.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused some delays in breast screening in the UK. But breast cancer screening is still available.
Check out NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates to breast screening for the latest information.
For further information on breast cancer, visit:
Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer for women in the UK, with around 3,200 women being diagnosed each year. Cervical cancer occurs when an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells happens in the lining of the cervix, which is the opening between the vagina and the womb (Cancer Research, 2020 & NHS, 2021).
The main cause of cervical cancer is from a long-lasting infection from a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV) (NHS, 2021). HPV is a common infection that the immune system usually clears without any problems.
This cancer is most common in women in their early 30s and it can develop in trans men if they haven’t had an operation to remove their womb and cervix (total hysterectomy) (Cancer Research, 2020).
You may not have any symptoms of cervical cancer, but if you do they may include:
- Having heavier periods than you usually do
- Bleeding in between your periods, during or after sex, or after the menopause
- Painful sex
- A change to your discharge, for example, an unpleasant smell, change of colour or consistency
- Pain in your lower back or between your hipbones (pelvis)
Conditions like fibroids or endometriosis may result in a regular occurrence of these symptoms. Also, these symptoms are very common and can be caused by various conditions. Therefore, having them does not mean that you definitely have cervical cancer. However, it is important to speak to your GP if you notice any symptom changes or it does not feel normal to you (NHS, 2021).
Cervical screening/smear test
The NHS invites women aged between 25 and 64 for cervical screening. Cervical screening also applies to trans men in this age range who have a cervix.
In England, you are invited for screening every three years if you are between the ages of 25 and 49. After this, it will be every five years until the age of 64 (Cancer Research, 2020).
Cervical screening is a prevention method that tests for the HPV virus, as a high risk of HPV can cause cervical cells to become cancerous.
You can contact your GP surgery online or by phone if you think you are due to have cervical screening but have not received an invitation.
This NHS video explains what to expect during your cervical screening.
For further information on cervical cancer, visit:
- NHS website
- Cancer Research UK
- Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust: This charity has a helpline that offers support with questions about cervical cancer, cervical screening results or if you are trying to come to terms with a recent diagnosis.
Source: NHS Health Checks
Physical health checks
As good practice, everyone needs to visit the doctor for regular health checks. Physical health checks are paramount if you are feeling unwell or notice something different about your body.
Screening and regular check-ups can detect diseases earlier when they can be easier to treat. Therefore, if appointments are during work time try to prioritise attending these appointments.
At Keeping Well BLMK, we understand how physical health can impact your mental health. We are here to support you by providing a safe and confidential space to talk about what is going on for you.
We can also help think with you about how you might want to access support and make onward referrals if needed.
To get in touch, message us on our live chat or give us a call on 01908 724 227.
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Updated on: 14/04/2022