Whether or not someone you love has been directly affected, breast cancer has an impact on all of our lives. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 16,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in Australia last year alone. Being the most common form of cancer found in Australian women, it’s important to have a strong understanding of changes that can occur to the breasts. Statistics demonstrate that one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85. With this in mind, regular checks and early detection can save lives.
Early Detection Techniques
One of the most effective techniques is a screening mammogram which can detect cancers that may be too small to feel. BreastScreen Australia encourages women between the age of 50-74 to undergo a free screening mammogram every two years. This service is also extended to women between the ages of 40-49 if they too select to have a mammogram. With over 500 locations across Australia, this is an incredible service helping the lives of Australian women.
If you are younger than the recommended screening age or in between appointments, self-examination is another important way to monitor and detect any changes in your breasts. According to BreastScreen Australia, there are some common indicators to look out for.
- A change in breast size and shape
- An ongoing pain
- A new lump (particularly on only one breast).
- You should also look for any changes in the nipple and skin of the breast, for example dimpling or puckering skin.
A recent campaign from WorldWide Breast Cancer shows a very practical way of recognising what abnormalities may look like.
This is also another great visual of what a lump may feel like – compared to a lemon!
Simple Steps to Self-Examination
1) Stand Up
Start by using the pads of your fingers to move around the entire breast and armpit area. In a circular motion, check for any changes in texture, lumps or knots in the skin.
2) Look in the Mirror
This is the best way to visually inspect any changes in the appearance of your breasts. While standing in front of the mirror, look for any unusual swelling, dimpling, puckering or changes in the appearance of your nipples.
3) Lie Down
When lying down, begin by placing your left arm behind your head. Using your right hand, examine your left breast for any changes. With varied pressure, use the pads of your fingers to cover the entire breast area in circular motions. Repeat with your right breast.
Where To Seek Help
For more information and support, contact Cancer Council Australia on 13 11 20. To schedule a screening mammogram or find a free screening location closest to you, contact BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50.
Cancer Council Australia
Breast Cancer Network Australia