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Let’s talk about primary and secondary breast cancer

it's breast cancer awareness month and we wanted to take a moment to talk about the symptoms of both primary and secondary breast cancer

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month - a much publicised cancer awareness initiative which does wonderful work raising awareness around the signs of breast cancer. Easily recognised by the campaign's iconic pink, which is often replicated in everything from afternoon teas to product packaging, while we wish there was no need for us to know about these things, it’s so important that we do.

One of the things that often isn’t spoken about in Breast Cancer Awareness Month however is secondary breast cancer, which has slightly different symptoms to the often discussed primary breast cancer signs. 13th October is dedicated to Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness (secondary breast cancer), and we feel it's an important topic to discuss, to help raise awareness and support.

While we are certainly not doctors, and the information we share here is gathered from reputable sources that we have linked to, we hope that in sharing we can help support early diagnosis and greater understanding of the symptoms of both primary and secondary breast cancer.

If you’re ever unsure if something is wrong, it’s always best to speak to your doctor - there are no silly questions when it comes to your health.

Jennifer Young
Meet the woman changing spa treatments for cancer patients|Find out more

Primary breast cancer signs

Cancer Research UK estimates there are nearly 56,000 new cases of breast cancer in the UK each year. Commonly reported symptoms of primary breast cancer include:

As reported by the American Cancer Society:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast 
  • Skin dimpling 
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction 
  • Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened
  • Nipple discharge 
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone

Secondary breast cancer signs

There are an estimated 35,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK and that for around 5% of women breast cancer has already spread by the time it is diagnosed. 

  • Feeling tired
  • Low energy levels
  • Feeling under the weather
  • Having less appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

The specifics of secondary breast cancer symptoms depend on where it has spread to. The most common places for it to spread to are the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, brain, or bones. ABCDiagnosis has a very helpful infographic to help understand those red flags:

cancer touch
Read about how touch therapies benefit cancer patients’ mental wellbeing|Find out more

Spa treatments and your cancer journey

All cancer treatments have their side effects that doctors will be able to offer advice on. 

From our perspective, spas are certainly not going to fix all problems, but with properly trained spa therapists and the right products, they can help to ease some side effects of cancer treatments and to provide support on your cancer journey. 

For example, the right type of massage has been shown to help ease pain, improve mood and help with sleeplessness. Meanwhile, products from brands like Jennifer Young help to ease some of the skincare side effects of cancer treatment. 

cancer touch
Can you go to a spa if you have cancer? We answer your questions.|Find out more

If you would like to find out more about spas where therapists are trained to provide the best support on your cancer journey, you can follow the link to our Safe Hands for Cancer experiences, or read more articles on the link below.

Read more about cancer support in UK spas

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