Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Pink Ribbon Day in particular (27th October), is a great opportunity for everyone to learn the facts about the most common, potentially fatal cancer affecting Australian women.
One: Early detection is your best protection
Finding breast cancer early means you have more treatment options and a greater chance of recovery. Regular screening is very effective for women over 50. However, because more than half of breast cancers are discovered after a woman or her doctor notice a breast change, it is important for women of all ages to be ‘breast-aware’. This means being familiar with the normal look, shape and feel of your breasts and seeing your doctor if you notice any changes.
Changes to look out for include:
- A lump, lumpiness or thickening in your breast or armpit
- A change or discharge from your nipple
- Changes in the texture of your skin around your breast
- Ongoing breast pain
- A noticeable change in the shape or size of one breast
Remember, nine out of 10 breast changes are not cancer, but it’s important to get anything unusual checked out.
Two: Most breast cancers occur in women over 50
While there have been several high profile cases of young women in Australia getting breast cancer, it is relatively rare in those under 40. The biggest risk factor for the disease, apart from being a woman, is increasing age. More than 70 per cent of cases occur in women over the age of 50. As well as being breast-aware, women over 50 are encouraged to have a free mammogram every two years as this is the best available method of finding breast cancer early. Call BreastScreen on 13 20 50 to make a free appointment.
Three: An active lifestyle can help prevent breast cancer
There is convincing evidence to suggest that a lack of physical activity is associated with a higher chance of developing breast cancer. Doing half an hour of vigorous exercise or one hour of moderate exercise most days reduces your risk of breast cancer by 20 to 40 per cent. What’s more, being active will help you maintain a healthy weight, and a waistline of 85cm or less is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
Four: Reducing your alcohol consumption will reduce your risk
The more alcoholic drinks you have each day, the greater your risk of breast cancer. It is therefore a good idea to reduce your alcohol intake, or better still, avoid it altogether. The Cancer Council recommends no more than one standard drink per day, equivalent to 100ml of wine, 285ml of full-strength beer or 30ml of spirits.
Five: Men get breast cancer too
Although very rare, about 100 Australian men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It is therefore also important for men to be aware of their own body and see their doctor immediately if they notice any unusual changes. The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre has a webpage dedicated to men and breast cancer: www.breasthealth.com.au/men
source: Cancer Council Victoria