Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer. This provides an opportunity for us all to focus on breast cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community.
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 100 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer now surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis.
Take time this month to find out what you need to know about breast cancer and share this important information with your family, friends, and colleagues.
Be Aware of Any Changes to Your Breasts
Finding breast cancer early provides the best chance of surviving the disease, you do not need to be an expert to check your breasts. 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
- 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 are not due to breast cancer but it’s important to see your doctor without delay if you notice any of these changes.
For more information on breast changes please visit: https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/awareness
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
With an understanding of the things that may increase your chance of developing breast cancer, you can take positive steps to reduce your risk, the following are risk factors that you can change:
- Alcohol – drinking alcohol increases your risk for breast cancer. The more you drink, the greater the increase in risk. If you do drink alcohol, limit your alcohol intake to 1 standard drink a day.
- Body weight – keeping to a healthy weight range reduces risk of breast cancer. Aim to keep to a healthy body weight that is within a Body Mass Index (BMI) range of 18.5 to 25 kg/m2, and have a waist circumference of below 80 cm (31.5 in).
- Physical activity – active women of all ages are at reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women who do not exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day. The more exercise you do, the bigger the benefits.
- Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)/hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – using menopausal hormone therapy (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. If you are taking MHT, review your needs regularly with your doctor.
- Breastfeeding – breastfeeding can reduce risk of breast cancer – and the longer the duration of breastfeeding, the greater the benefits.
For further information on risk factors please visit: https://www.breastcancerriskfactors.gov.au/what-you-can-do
Breast Cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women
Breast cancer is the most common cancer experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer. Research shows that survival is lower in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women diagnosed with breast cancer than in the general population.
If you are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin and would like to learn more, please visit: https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/atsi/breast-cancer-awareness
Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too
It may come as a surprise to know that men can develop breast cancer. While breast cancer is uncommon in men, it’s important for men who find a change in their breasts not to let embarrassment or uncertainty prevent them from seeing their doctor without delay. Early detection and treatment are the best way to survive the disease.
For more information please visit: https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/publications-and-resources/cancer-australia-publications/understanding-breast-cancer-men
Having a family history of cancer usually means that more than one close blood relative on the same side of the family has had cancer.
Cancer is a common condition. It is not unusual for more than one family member to develop cancer during their lifetime. Cancer can occur in more than one family member simply by chance or because of lifestyle or environmental factors.
Strong family history
The significance of a family history of breast cancer increases with:
- the number of family members affected
- the younger their ages at diagnosis
- the closer the affected relatives are related to you.
Further information can be found by visiting https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/publications-and-resources/cancer-australia-publications/information-women-about-family-history-breast-cancer-and-ovarian-cancer
Useful Links and Contacts
Should you require more information on breast cancer there are many useful organisations to offer advice and support.
Breast Cancer Care WA www.breastcancer.org.au
Australian Government Cancer Australia www.canceraustralia.gov.au
Breast Cancer Network Australia www.bcna.org.au/about-us/contact-us
The National Breast Cancer Foundation www.nbcf.org.au
McGrath Foundation www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au