October is Breast Cancer Awareness month which is an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of the impact of breast cancer in our community.
More than 20,000 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and in the last ten years, diagnosis has increased by 36%1. Around 1 in 7 women and 1 in 700 men will be diagnosed in their lifetime2. While the incidence of breast cancer is increasing, the good news is that the chance of making a full recovery is high, if it’s detected early. With this in in mind, it’s worth considering the preventative steps you can take.
Early detection is key
The best method of early detection of breast cancer in younger women is through breast awareness and regular self-checks. For women aged between 50 and 74, BreastScreen Australia is a government initiative which provides free mammograms every 2 years and for women of any age, regular health screening by your GP can also include breast checks.
Pandemic slows screening
With large parts of the country experiencing extended lockdowns during the pandemic, many people have been reluctant to visit their GP or make appointments for routine preventative screening. In August this year, BreastScreen temporarily closed its screening clinics as staff were redeployed to support COVID-19 response efforts. Clinics are beginning to open up again as community lockdowns are lifted, so now is the time to contact BreastScreen in your state to see if you’re eligible and make an appointment.
What to look for
Regardless of age, it’s important that all women are aware of the way their breasts look and feel. Self-examination is something that’s easy to incorporate into your regular routine when you shower, use body lotion or while getting dressed – being familiar with what’s normal for you is the key. There are a number of warning signs to look out for:
- a new lump in your breast or underarm (armpit)
- thickening or swelling of part of your breast
- irritation or dimpling of your breast skin
- redness or flaky skin in your nipple area or your breast
- pulling in of your nipple or pain in your nipple area
- nipple discharge other than breast milk
- any change in the size or the shape of your breast
- pain in any area of your breast
If you notice any of these warning signs, ensure you see your GP right away.
Want to know more?
Breast cancer in Australia statistics. Cancer Australia. Canceraustralia.gov.au. (2021).
Cancer data in Australia, Data - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021).