NHS Western Isles is urging women to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer during this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Detecting cancer early is vital to saving lives.

In fact, you’re five times more likely to survive breast cancer if it’s diagnosed and treated at the earliest stage.

Most women know that a lump can be a sign of breast cancer. Lumps can be found anywhere in your breasts, armpit or around your collarbone.

If you do find one, or any other symptom of breast cancer such as leaking nipples, skin like orange peel, nipple becoming turned in, bleeding or crusty nipples or dimples, it doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer.Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most of them aren’t serious. Many women have breast lumps, and 9 out of 10 are not cancerous. So stay calm – remain in control. However, you do need to get it looked at by your doctor – just to rule it out.

Of course, your breasts will look and feel different at different times of your life but if you’re worried about a change, see your doctor. After all, breast cancer is much more treatable these days and the earlier it’s found, the easier it is to treat. If you or anyone you know is concerned about any of these symptoms, please visit your doctor. It’s probably nothing serious but it could be a sign of something that needs treatment.

As part of this year's Breast Cancer Awareness month, NHS Western Isles is grateful to be sharing the story of breast cancer survivor Shona MacInnes from South Uist who, at only 33 and with a young family, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is hoped that Shona's story will encourage women to carry out their own breast self-examination on a regular basis, and become ‘breast aware’.

Being ‘breast aware’ simply means knowing what your breasts look and feel like normally, being on the outlook for any unusual changes and getting them checked out by your doctor. Lumps are vital to look out for – but there can be other important signs too.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, said: “Women need to be breast aware, which means knowing what their breasts look and feel like normally, so that they are aware of any changes and can get them checked out by their doctor. Lumps are of course vital to look out for but there are other important signs too, such as changes to size, shape, texture and discharge.”

One in eight women in Scotland will develop breast cancer but, if found early enough, it is treatable. In fact, you’re five times more likely to survive breast cancer if it’s caught in its earliest stage.

If you do notice any changes in your breasts, it's important to see your GP. There's no need to feel embarrassed as your doctor is there to help but if you would prefer, you can request to be seen by a female doctor or practice nurse. You could even take a friend along with you - the most important thing is to get checked.

As part of this month’s awareness campaign, staff from Health Promotion are also providing breast awareness sessions in a number of workplaces and, as part of Macmillan Cancer Support's coffee mornings, breast awareness information will be provided.  In addition, further promotional literature and posters have been distributed to GP surgeries and workplaces to remind and encourage women on how to carry out their breast self-examination.

Finally, a Zumba class is currently being organised on Barra to promote breast cancer awareness

To find out more about breast cancer go to: www.getcheckedearly.org/breast-cancer