Being breast aware is important for women of all ages, and it’s never too early to get into the habit of checking your breasts for changes and understanding what these might mean.Being breast aware is important for women of all ages, and it’s never too early to get into the habit of checking your breasts for changes and understanding what these might mean.
Most breast changes are not due to breast cancer, and are usually linked to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, cysts and other non-cancerous lumps. For young women going through puberty, frequent changes in the breasts are normal as they are still developing. While changes in your breasts are usually not a cause for concern, being aware of these changes is important for your breast health and for your own peace of mind.
Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in Australian women. One in eight women will develop cancer by the age of 85. Older women are most at risk of developing breast cancer, with 75% of all breast cancers in Australia occurring in women over the age of fifty. Some other risk factors for developing breast cancer include: family history; inheritance of mutations in certain genes; exposure to female hormones; obesity and excess alcohol consumption. Early detection of breast cancer means that women have a much greater chance of being treated successfully and in most cases the cancer will not come back after treatment.
While younger women don’t face a high risk of developing breast cancer, the Cancer Council Australia recommends that women of all ages should be familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts.
You don’t need to use a special technique or be an expert to check your breasts. The important thing is that you take the time to get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts. This includes being aware of the usual changes you might experience during the menstrual cycle (for example, a lot of women’s breasts tend to be more swollen and tender around the time of their period).
The best way of understanding your breasts and picking up on any changes is by making checking your breasts a normal part of your daily routine. This can be as simple as getting to know the feel and look of your breasts during everyday activities like showering, dressing, applying moisturiser or just looking in the mirror.
For steps on how to carry out a breast self exam, take a look at this infographic. You can also check out this app from the McGrath Foundation and this Cancer Australia initative for more info on how to check your breasts and look for changes.
Changes to look out for include:
Remember, as your breasts are developing and you’re experiencing puberty, changes in the size and shape of the breasts are normal and usually nothing to be worried about. However if you notice any of these changes listed above, you should have a chat with your doctor about them.
A mammogram is a low dose x-ray of the breasts, used to detect cancer at an early stage before symptoms appear. Screening mammograms are recommended for women over the age of fifty as an effective way of detecting early signs of breast cancer in older women. Mammograms are not recommended for women under the age of forty and are not considered to be an effective way of detecting early signs of breast cancer in younger women. This is because younger women’s breasts are dense and appear like white cotton wool on a mammogram, making it very difficult to see any signs of breast cancer in the screening.
There is no proven way to prevent breast cancer from occurring. However, the Cancer Council Australia recommends that people who want to reduce their cancer risk should: