BREAST cancer is the leading cause of death in women under the age of 50 in the UK.
But a combination of better treatment and earlier detection through screening is helping to give women a better chance at survival.
In fact almost nine in 10 women will beat the disease – and survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years.
However, when breast cancer is not picked up early and given the chance to spread – known as advanced – it becomes incurable.
It can most commonly spread to the bones, brain, lungs or liver.
There are an estimated 35,000 people living with advanced, or secondary, breast cancer in the UK.
In around five per cent of women, breast cancer has already advanced by the time it is diagnosed, according to Breast Cancer Now.
With cancer referrals down 60 per cent in England during the coronavirus lockdown, there are fears of a surge in “unnecessary deaths”.
It comes as Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding revealed she is battling advanced breast cancer and currently undergoing chemotherapy.
The 38-year-old told fans she had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, but found out a couple of weeks ago that it had advanced.
It’s unclear where in her body the cancer has spread but she said she is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
The best way to beat the disease is to know the early warning signs so that it can be detected and treated sooner.
There are four general symptoms to look our for, according to Cancer Research UK.
Not all of these symptoms could be a sign of advanced breast cancer and they may be caused by other conditions.
Symptoms can also vary depending on which part of the body the cancer has spread to.
But if you’re worried about a symptom or if it continues for more than a few days, then it’s best to tell your doctor or specialist nurse.
While breast is more common in older women, it does affect the younger generation and men too – with around 20 per cent of cases occurring in females under 50 and 350 male cases diagnosed in the UK annually.
While 90 per cent of such lumps are not cancerous, it is vital to get them checked by your GP at the earliest opportunity – detecting the disease early can mean treatment is more effective.
It is therefore vitally important to be “breast aware” – know what feels normal for you, and therefore what changes to look out for.
The most common signs to know include:
There are four stages for breast cancer, with one being the earliest and four meaning it has spread to other parts of the body.
Here are the different stages, as shared by Cancer Research UK.
There are two parts to stage one:
There are two parts to stage two, and this stage means the cancer is in the breast or nearby lymph nodes:
There are three parts to stage three, and this stage means the cancer is in the breast or nearby lymph nodes:
This means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain.
It’s known as advanced, secondary or metastatic cancer.
The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the lymph nodes, bone, liver, lungs and brain.
Symptoms will depend on where in the body the cancer has spread to.
If you have symptoms that you are worried about, discuss them with your GP, cancer specialist or breast care nurse.