What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that originates in the cells of the breast. Cancer develops when cells grow abnormally and multiply. These abnormal cells develop into cancerous growths that can, in some cases, spread (metastasise) to other areas of the body.
Breast cancer occurs predominantly in females, although men can also develop the disease, accounting for approximately 1% of cases.
Tell me the Facts!
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia.
One in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime in Australia
By 2015, 15,409 women are projected to be diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Australia. This is an average of 42 women every day.
Three out of four cases of breast cancer occur in women over 40.
Of the 14,509 women predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, over 800 are expected to be less than 40 years old.
Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 88% chance of surviving 5 years after diagnosis.
Improvements in survival are attributed to earlier detection of breast cancer through regular mammograms and improved treatment outcomes for breast cancer.
Although rare, breast cancer can also affect men, accounting for approximately 1 in 125 cases.
*Facts are referenced from The Cancer Council Australia
Early Detection is very important
Get to know the look and feel of your breasts whenever you can, as early detection of breast cancer provides the best chance of surviving the disease. Knowing what is normal for you will help you to detect any changes. Changes to look for include:
A new lump or lumpiness, especially if it's only in one breast.
A change in the size or shape of your breast.
A change to the nipple such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion.
A nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
A change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling.
An unusual pain that doesn't go away.
Breast Checks are simple!
Look at the shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples in the mirror, with your hands by your sides.
Raise your arms above your head and look for a change in the shape of your breasts.
Feel for lumps in the breast, nipple area and in the armpits while standing or lying down.
Take the time to get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts as part of everyday activities like showering, dressing, putting on body lotion or simply looking in the mirror. Knowing what is normal for you will help you to detect any irregularities.
What if you find something?
First of all, don’t panic. Most changes in the breast are not related to breast cancer, so chances are you’ll be fine. However if you do find a lump, or notice a change in your breast, it’s important to visit your GP immediately.
Remember, the sooner you see your GP after finding a change in your breast, the better. Your GP will conduct a clinical breast examination to determine whether you will need further testing.
Reduce your risk
As women age, they are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Family history can also play a part, as your risk of getting breast cancer increases if a close relative is diagnosed, if there have been several members of your family with breast cancer or if your relatives have been diagnosed at a young age.
While most of us can do little to change the general risk factors for developing breast cancer, there are some very important things that you can do to help reduce your chances of getting the disease.
Reduce your alcohol consumption. Your risk of breast cancer increases with each standard drink per day.
Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life.
Active women of all ages have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women who do not exercise. The more exercise you do, the greater the benefits.
Ensure you eat a balanced diet, with at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day.
Breastfeeding for at least 12 months can reduce your breast cancer risk.
Individuals who have a mother, father, sister or brother who has had cancer should see their doctor to discuss their individual risk.
Should I get a BreastScreen?
Women 40-49 years
Age is the biggest risk factor in developing breast cancer. Around 75% of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. Current research shows that breast cancer screening is most effective in detecting early breast cancer in women aged 50-69 years.
Current evidence indicates that the benefits of breast cancer screening for women aged 40-49 years are not strong enough to encourage all women in this age group to have regular breast cancer screening.
Women in their 40s who have no breast problems are able to have a free screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia if they wish. However, they are not specifically targeted to attend. BreastScreen Australia will continue to review this policy as new research becomes available.
Women 40 years and under
Regular screening mammograms are not recommended for women under 40 years. One reason is that the risk of breast cancer in young women is low compared to that of older women. Also, mammographic screening is not as effective in younger women. As women grow older and approach menopause, their breasts change and become less dense or solid.
The tissue of younger women's breasts is usually more dense than that of older women and can show up as white areas on the x-ray. Breast cancers also show up as white areas on x-rays. This makes breast cancer more difficult to detect in young women. Women under 40 years of age are therefore more likely to have an unnecessary recall for assessment, with all the anxiety associated with this, and sometimes invasive investigations, when there was no cancer there in the first place.
Younger women who notice any unusual breast lumps, pain or nipple discharge should see their doctor immediately. Those who are concerned about their individual risk of developing breast cancer should also seek advice from their doctor.
Visit the Australian Government website to read more about BreastScreen Australia and what you can expect at a breast screening
Early detection saves lives – the sooner you find a change in your breast and see your GP, the better.
Early detection is the best tool we currently have in the fight against breast cancer, but it’s also important to support breast cancer research. Why not hold a fundraiser to help raise awareness and also raise vital funds?
Awareness & Fundraising Ideas
Hold a fundraiser lingerie Styling Session, where the Hostess benefits are donated towards breast cancer research, awareness organisations or support programs.
Get everyone to wear just a bra and a singlet and ask your Stylist to step through the process of a breast check so you can all learn it together. Then you can do it at home again later without your bra and singlet.
Ask all your guests to bring a "breast/lingerie themed" cakes and auction them off for people to take home. Give all proceeds as donations to your selected charity.
Or, bake a bra cake yourself and auction it off to guests. Proceeds are a fundraiser.
Together with your friends, mark a day in your diaries when each of you are going to do your breast check (this is best the week following your period). Buddy up with another person and mark their dates in your diary too so that you can text each other and make sure you have both done your checks.
Make an appointment with your doctor to get a mammogram and make every October the month you get checked by your doctor as well as by yourself. Mammograms are oly recommended for certain people, would you change this to breast check and risk assessment.
Make it a goal for the month to educate five friends or family members about the importance of and how to do a breast check.
Ask your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter if they have check their breasts.
Organise a fundraiser at your childrens' school.
Hold a pink morning tea at your workplace.
Donate magazines to a cancer centre or oncology unit. Patients spend a lot of time waiting and having something to do is always welcomed.