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Bad back could be hidden symptom of breast cancer

By Sophie Borland Time of article published Nov 9, 2016

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One in six women with breast cancer have symptoms other than a lump, a study has found.

These include back pain, a swollen arm, breathlessness and weight loss.

But such women are much more likely to wait at least three months before seeing their GP than those with a lump.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) say too many women are unaware of the other symptoms of breast cancer.

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The disease can cause arm ache or shoulder pain if it occurs in the lymph glands, which are situated in the armpit.

In a study presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Liverpool, researchers looked at data on 2,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009/10.

The majority – 76 per cent – first went to their GP complaining of a lump. Another 17 per cent had non-lump symptoms including changes in the shape of the breast or nipple, swollen arms, back pain or weight loss.

The remainder had both non-lump and lump symptoms.

But women with non-lump symptoms waited an average of 12 days before seeing their GP after noticing symptoms.

This was almost twice as long as those with a lump who typically made an appointment within a week.

And 15 per cent of women without a lump waited three months before seeing a GP.

By comparison, just 7 per cent of women with a lump waited this length of time.

Monica Koo, lead author and researcher in cancer epidemiology at UCL said public health officials needed to raise awareness about the other breast cancer symptoms.

The study leader said: ‘Our research shows around one in six women diagnosed with breast cancer have symptoms other than a breast lump.

‘These women are more likely to delay going to the doctor compared to women with a breast lump alone.

‘It’s crucial that women are aware that a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer.

‘If they are worried about any breast symptoms, the best thing to do is to get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible.

‘Diagnosing cancer earlier really is key in order to increase the chances of survival.’

Dr Karen Kennedy, director of the NCRI, said: ‘This research shows that, all too often, women are delaying going to their doctor with symptoms of breast cancer.

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‘This could be because people are simply unaware that breast cancer can present in many different ways, not just through the presence of a lump.

‘With a disease like breast cancer, it’s essential to be diagnosed as early as possible so that a treatment plan can be developed and started.

‘Awareness campaigns need to raise awareness of all of the potential symptoms of breast cancer so that people know how to spot the signs and when to go to a doctor.’

Daily Mail

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