No, this isn’t an article where we inform you that not wearing a bra is better for your health, although we ladies can appreciate a bra-free day from time to time!
We want to take a closer look at breast cancer and the BreastScreening Australia’s national breast screening program that invites women aged between 50 and 74 for a free mammogram every two years.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women, but it can also affect men.
Breast cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the breast tissues multiply and form an invasive (or malignant) tumour. Not all tumours are invasive, some are benign tumours that are not life-threatening, whereas others are called "in situ" lesions because they are contained in the milk ducts and have not invaded the surrounding tissue.1
The causes of breast cancer vary per case but some factors to consider are:
a previous diagnosis
exposure to female hormones (natural and administered)
inheritance of mutations in the genes BRCA2, BRCA1 and CHEK2
a past history of certain on-cancerous breast conditions
There is also an association with some benign breast disease and past exposure to radiation.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
Checking your breast regularly is recommended and as some people how no symptoms it’s important to know the normal look and feel of your breasts.
For a visual How To Guide for checking your breasts visit this great resource.
Things you should look out for include:
a new lump or lumpiness in your breasts or under arm
a change in the size and shape of your breast
a change to the nipple such as soreness, redness, the nipple pulled in, crusting, discharge or an ulcer
a change in the skin of your breast such as redness, dimpling or puckered skin
a pain that does not go away, although pain is rare
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE STATS
In 2017, it is estimated that 17,586 women and 144 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
This means that approximately 17,730 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, an average of 48 people every day.2
A statistic that we would like to highlight is that 78% of new cases of breast cancer in women develop over the age of 50.3
You can also view these Breast Cancer statistics as an infographic (PDF)
HOW CAN BREASTSCREENING AUSTRALIA HELP?
With over 75% of breast cancer cases in women over 50, screening for breast cancer is offered to women aged between 50 and 74 for free every two years as part of the mammograms by BreastScreening Australia Program.
Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are also eligible for free screening but do not received a direct invitation to attend. If you are in these age categories and are concerned about your family history or current breast health, please contact your GP at Hawthorne Clinic to discuss this in more detail. Screening mammograms are not effective for women under 40.
REMOVE YOUR BRA, IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
We appreciate that breast screening may be a little embarrassing for many women. We encourage you to remember that each screening is performed by health professionals who is there for your health and will respect and understand your feelings during this time.
Tips for the nervous
If you are someone who keeps delaying your breastscreen, then the following strategies may help.
Book with a friend. This way you are more likely to keep your appointment.
Make a list of what's important to you about keeping healthy and keep it handy for those times when you feel like opting out.
Go with a group of friends or female colleagues and make an outing of it by having lunch or coffee afterwards.
Allocate an annual health check morning and organise a check-up with your GP, your dentist and BreastScreen Queensland. Remember, your breastscreen will only take about 30 minutes.
Reward yourself for having a breastscreen by treating yourself to a pedicure, a bunch of flowers or something nice just for you.
If you're prone to forgetting your breastscreen, make your two yearly appointment around a date you are likely to remember, such as your birthday or an anniversary.4