This October we focus on breast cancer awareness as part of a national campaign to empower women to take control of their health, know the available resources they have and acknowledge how breast cancer impacts not only the patients, but people in their lives as well.
After non melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is still one of the most common types of cancer for women in Australia.
Around 48 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia daily, according to Breast Cancer Network Australia. Surprisingly for some people, but breast cancer can also develop for men as well, however reported cases are less than 1% of all cancers in men.
Awareness is important because, if diagnosed in the early stages, the chances of survival are considerably high as treatments evolve and so much research is dedicated to continuously fight this type of cancer.
Self examination should be a routine for every woman. This involves feeling the breast for any lumps, checking any changes in skin color or size, if the nipples have any unusual discharge or develop a crust or redness. Even if breast pain commonly appears for women related to their period, abnormal breast pain shouldn’t be ignored either as a possible sign.
This self check can be done early morning in the mirror or during the shower, regularly. Doing it repeatedly makes a woman more aware of her natural breast size, shape and look so that if any changes occur they are easier to spot. Most changes aren’t necessarily a sign of breast cancer, but they sure indicate the need to visit the doctor for a safety check.
Women between 50 and 74 are invited to have a free mammogram every two years as part of the national breast cancer screening program. Women aged 40–49 and those aged over 74 can also be screened free of charge, however they are not sent invitation letters. Statistics show that more than 78% of breast cancer develops for women over the age of 50, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Considering changes of the body when women approach menopause, breast cancer symptoms can sometimes be overlooked, even more reasons to spread awareness especially in this age range.
Regular health checks with your GP are a good opportunity to talk to your doctor about breast health and monitor any changes. Awareness helps not only women diagnosed with breast cancer to understand their condition and available resources and support for treatment, but also plays a huge role in teaching women from a young age about self check and the increasing chances of getting cured when breast cancer is diagnosed early on.