October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month across Australia. The month is an opportunity to raise awareness of the impact of breast cancer within our communities.
It’s also a chance to focus on supporting individuals to understand how to check themselves and seek support if they suspect they have symptoms.
Breast cancer occurs in the breast tissue when abnormal cells grow uncontrolled. It affects all adult age groups, and while more common in women, a small number of men are also diagnosed each year. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among Australian women, second only to non-melanoma skin cancer.
According to Cancer Australia, there has been an estimated 20,640 new diagnoses of breast cancer in 2022 so far. An estimated 3,214 individuals have died of breast cancer or breast cancer-related conditions in 2022 so far.
Based on recent statistics, Cancer Australia estimates a 1 in 15 (6.7%) risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer by age 85, equating to roughly 1 in 8 females receiving a diagnosis.
The good news is that with early intervention, those diagnosed with breast cancer have a 92% chance of surviving at least five years – many go on to live full lives post-diagnosis and treatment for many years.
One of the difficulties with breast cancer is that many people have no symptoms for some time, meaning a diagnosis can come late.
Breast cancer can be found during routine screening, such as a mammogram or through a physical examination.
It is essential to familiarise yourself regularly with the overall shape and feel of your breasts and to know some of the common symptoms of breast cancer so that even if you aren’t experiencing any pain, you know some early signs.
Common symptoms include:
It’s recommended that adult women should conduct a self-examination of their breasts at least once a month and monitor for any changes or signs of anything unusual. Regular checks will help you become familiar with how your breasts usually look and feel, making it easier to detect changes.
To conduct a self-examination, follow these steps:
Repeat the examination while standing and lying down.
If you do notice any changes, pain, lumps or bumps, don’t panic. Reach out to your local health professionals who can support with a further examination and support you to understand what’s happening and your next steps.
The word ‘cancer’ invokes many different feelings and emotions in different people. There is a lot of information out there, and without knowing, it’s easy to take in information that isn’t accurate.
Below we’ve covered three common myths about breast cancer to help: