Australia’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A mammogram test this month can save your life

Breast cancer is one of Australia’s most common types of cancer affecting both men and women, with over 50 Australians being diagnosed with breast cancer every single day.

This October, as we celebrate Australia’s breast cancer awareness month, it provides an opportunity to focus our attention on breast cancer, its prevention and treatment and learn about early detection through mammograms.

Breast cancer can be a scary thing. It is possible that you might have breast cancer for years without knowing about it until you or your GP notices changes in your breast health. Therefore, seeking regular advice from doctors as well as undergoing regular breast cancer screenings can save your life.

Breast cancer signs and symptoms

The most important thing about being aware of breast cancer indicators is to know the normal look and feel of your breast so that it’s easier to notice unusual changes in your breast health.

To check for changes, a regular physical examination at home can be a great start.

Here is a list of changes you should look for in your breasts:

  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A lump or swelling in the breast or armpit that you may feel but not see
  • A change to the nipple such as crusting, redness or an inversion
  • A change in the breast skin such as dimpling and puckering
  • Unusual nipple discharge
  • Consistent pain in the breast or armpit

What are the risk factors of breast cancer?

A risk factor associated with breast cancer increases your chance of acquiring the disease, but having a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get the disease.

Breast cancer generally occurs due to a combination of risk factors including certain things that cannot be changed like growing older or inheriting certain gene changes. However, other changeable risk factors like excessive consumption of alcohol or living a sedentary lifestyle can be easily reduced by making the right choices.

It is best to go through a risk assessment by a doctor who can help you gain an awareness of your level of risk for breast cancer.

Risk factors that cannot be changed

1. Family history of breast or ovarian cancer – Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer are at an increased risk, especially when anyone from their first-degree family was previously diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50.

2. Age – Growing older is another determinant that increases the chances of breast cancer. Two out of three invasive breast cancer diagnoses are seen in women above the age of 55.

3. Any Previous case of breast cancer – If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer previously in your life, it puts you at an increased risk of diagnosis again in the future.

4. Dense breast tissue can also increase your chances of suffering from breast cancer as dense tissue makes it difficult to detect lumps. Therefore, it is important to ask your GP what implications it might have on your breast health.

Risk factors that can be changed

1. Being overweight or obese – Being obese or overweight is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer especially for women after their menopause. After menopause, most estrogens produced in women come from fat tissue, which in turn increases your chances of breast cancer.

2. Not being physically active – Regular physical activities reduce your risk for breast cancer due to its effects on our body weight, hormones and energy levels.

3. Living a sedentary lifestyle – Although there is limited evidence that may indicate a sedentary lifestyle as an independent risk factor. However, living a sedentary lifestyle with little or no physical activities is associated with increased risk for breast cancer.

4. Excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking – Alcohol use is one of the most modifiable risk factors for all types of cancer, with the risk for breast cancer growth with an increase in its consumption. Women who consume 2 to 3 standard drinks per day have about 20% higher risk of breast cancer when compared to non-drinkers.

5. Consuming hormones during menopause – Hormones have long been used in therapies to relieve symptoms of menopause and osteoporosis. Studies have revealed that a year’s hormone therapy can increase your risk of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer screening through mammograms

A woman during her breast screening for early breast cancer detection, Breast cancer doctor Hunter Region

Breast cancer screening techniques like mammography can detect cancer even when the symptoms are not noticeable. Screening mammograms are designed to detect any abnormalities in your breast health including breast lumps providing the best chance to detect cancer. Mammograms are by far one of the best tests a doctor can offer to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

A mammogram is an X-ray of your breast that is used to effectively identify any changes in your breast health which is difficult to recognise through a physical assessment.

Mammograms are by far the best test a doctor can offer to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

If you notice any early signs of breast cancer, a doctor’s visit should be a must. Your GP will most likely conduct a physical test and then a mammogram for further investigation. The mammogram procedure is completely painless and usually takes about 10 minutes.

What happened during your mammogram screening?

Mammogram screening involves the use of X-rays to detect any signs of cancer in your breast. This procedure is usually conducted by radiographers where the patient is asked to stand in front of the mammography machine and X-rays are taken for each of the breasts. The procedure is painless, however, some patients might find it uncomfortable while it is being carried out.

Who should take a mammogram screening?

Any women aged between 50 and 74 are recommended to undergo a breast screening test every two years. But it is best advised to consult breast cancer clinics like Healthcare Evolutions in assessing your risk factors and how often a breast screening is ideal for you.

Where are mammograms conducted?

Your local GP can conduct a mammogram test at their practice provided they have the resources. Your GP can also refer you to other radiologists where breast cancer screenings can be conducted.

Early detection through mammograms in the Hunter Region

At Healthcare Evolutions, we offer regular comprehensive breast screenings.

We encourage all women from the Hunter Region to seek help from GP’s and undergo mammograms regularly.

Each of our clinics provides both screening and diagnostic mammograms which usually take less than 10 minutes to execute.

We recommend that all women between the age of 50 and 74 under breast screenings regularly.

To consult our GP’s on your breast health, visit your preferred locations.

Cameron Park Practice

Wallsend Practice

Clarence Practice

Paterson Practice

You can also contact us to speak to our staff for further details.

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