Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk With Regular Checkups And Screening
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women today, with around 3.000 Victorian women diagnosed each year[i]. It’s also the second most common cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer)[ii].
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which abnormal breast tissue cells multiply and form a tumour. Not all tumours are cancerous (malignant); some are not life threatening (benign). Others are called ‘in situ’ when they are contained within the milk ducts.
Although breast cancer most commonly occurs in women, it can also affect men.
How can you reduce your breast cancer risk?
Although there is no absolute way to stop breast cancer developing, certain lifestyle choices play an important preventative role. Eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, and exercising regularly have all been shown to have preventative qualities.
Additionally, checking your breasts regularly assists in early detection. Get to know your breasts’ normal look and feel, and perform regular self-examinations to detect changes early.
In particular, look out for:
- A lump or lumpiness
- Changes in size and shape
- Crusting or redness of the nipple
- Dimpling or puckered skin
- Pain that doesn’t go away
Most breast changes don’t necessarily indicate cancer, but you should still get your GP to assess any new developments as soon as possible.
Breast screening mammograms
As with most cancers, the earlier it’s found and treated, the better the prognosis. Treating breast cancers early offers them less opportunity to spread beyond the breast and develop in other areas of the body.
Mammograms are currently the best way to find breast cancer early. Multiple studies have found that having regular mammograms can reduce breast cancer deaths in women aged between 50 and 74 years old by up to one third. [iii]
A mammogram involves taking a low dose X-ray of your breasts to create a picture of their inner tissue. This picture is then examined to detect any abnormalities by a radiologist.
During the procedure, each breast is compressed between two plates for the X-rays to be taken. The machine then presses firmly as two pictures are taken – one from the side, and one from the top. Although this can be uncomfortable, it is not painful.
BreastScreen Australia is a national screening program that invites women aged between 50 and 74 for a free mammogram every two years. Women of other ages are also eligible to receive mammograms for free, but they do not receive an invitation to do so.
There are over 600 locations across Australia where women can receive their mammogram. Mammograms aren’t suitable for men, so they are instead encouraged to check their breasts regularly and see their GP immediately if they notice any changes.
When to see a doctor
If you notice any unusual changes in the appearance or feel of your breasts, or if you would like to set up yearly breast exams, contact us at Breed St Clinic today to arrange an appointment with one of our friendly and caring GPs.