October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month which provides an opportunity to focus on breast cancer and the importance of early detection.
According to the National Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), breast cancer is the most common cancer among Australian women with one in eight women diagnosed by the time they turn 85. But survival rates have improved in recent years with 89 per cent of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer now surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis.
The Wesley Breast Clinic based at The Wesley Hospital provides a screening and diagnostic service with results of most examinations and procedures available on the same day, an MRI service, as well as a familial cancer service for women who have a family history of breast cancer.
Director of The Wesley Breast Clinic, Dr Lisa Erzetich, said family history was an important risk factor for breast cancer.
“Women who have a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer are on average at twice the risk as those without a similar family history. This risk increases when even more relatives on the same side of the family have developed breast cancer,” she said.
While family history was an important risk factor, Dr Erzetich stressed that only five per cent of all breast cancers were due to an inherited gene mutation.
“The major risk factors for breast cancer are that you are female and getting older, two things none of us are able to change.
“Therefore early detection, through being aware of breast changes and undergoing screening mammography on a regular basis, will hopefully result in improved survival rate,” she said.
The Wesley Breast Clinic encourages all women to conduct regular breast self-examination and women over 40 to have regular screening mammograms.
Breast 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.
For women diagnosed with breast cancer, The Wesley Breast Clinic has dedicated clinical staff who provide information, care and support to patients while working in close collaboration with specialists and GPs. The Wesley Hospital Choices Cancer Support Centre, available to anyone with a cancer diagnosis, offers practical and emotional support through an inter-disciplinary team of clinical staff and allied health providers.