October, Australia’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, provides an opportunity for us all to focus on breast cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community.
What is breast cancer?
It’s the abnormal growth of the cells lining the breast lobules or ducts. These cells grow uncontrollably and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
Both men and women can develop breast cancer, although it is uncommon in men.
It’s the most common cancer in women
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
Survival rates continue to improve in Australia with 89 out of every 100 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer now surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis.
Finding this cancer early provides the best chance of surviving the disease. You don’t need to be an expert or use a special technique to check your breasts.
What to look for
Changes to look for include:
- A new lump or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast
- A change in the size or shape of your breast
- A change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion
- A nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
- A change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling
- An unusual pain that doesn’t go away.
Most changes aren’t due to breast cancer but it’s important to see your doctor without delay if you notice any of these changes.
View the short video below about the breast changes you need to look out for.
Breast cancer risk factors
As a woman, over the course of your lifetime there are many factors that can influence your risk of breast cancer.
While some of the most important of these risk factors, such as being a woman, getting older or having a strong family history cannot be changed, you can still aim to reduce risk of breast cancer through making healthy lifestyle choices and other risk-reducing strategies.
Factors that can be changed are called modifiable factors. They include:
- Alcohol – drinking alcohol increases your risk for breast cancer. The more you drink, the greater the increase in risk.
- Body weight – keeping to a healthy weight range reduces risk of breast cancer.
- Physical activity – active women of all ages are at reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women who do not exercise.
- Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)/hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – using MHT that contains both an oestrogen and a progestogen is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, with the risk increasing the longer you take it.
- Breastfeeding – breastfeeding can reduce risk of breast cancer, and the longer the duration of breastfeeding, the greater the benefits.
We can help you manage these modifiable factors. You can also learn more about breast cancer risk factors here.
Pink Ribbon Day
October is the official month for Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day, though you can get involved at any time throughout the year.
You can help those affected by breast cancer by making a donation, hosting a Pink Ribbon event or even buying Pink Ribbon merchandise. Visit Pink Ribbon for more information.
Questions? Concerns? Ask us!
Our team of friendly GPs are here to help with any questions or concerns you may have about women’s health and breast cancer.
We understand if your preference is to see a female doctor. We’d be pleased to help you in any way we can.
Please make a booking online or call us on 9304 0500 today.
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.