This Breast Cancer Awareness Month the McGrath Foundation is reminding women in Australia they are in control of their own breast health and encouraging them to make this the moment to master the simple three step approach to breast checking, ‘Look, Feel, Learn’.
“With everything going on at the moment, including temporary closures of some screening services, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or worried. But it’s important to remember many breast cancers are self-detected, meaning women, and men too, can still be in control of their breast health, even in these unpredictable times,” said McGrath Foundation CEO Holly Masters.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data[i] shows more than two thirds of breast cancers in women aged 40 and over are detected outside of the national screening program, so there’s never been a better time to “get to know your pair”.
“At the McGrath Foundation we say, ‘if you grow them, know them’. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month we encourage women to learn how to check your breasts, and most importantly, to seek medical attention if you notice anything unusual.”
“Early detection of breast cancer while it is still small and confined to the breast provides the best chance for treatment to be effective. It’s so important that if you find a lump or notice any changes to your breasts that you seek medical attention straight away. Don’t wait for lockdowns or the pandemic to be over,” Holly continued.
“We encourage everyone who is eligible to attend their regular breast screening when they are able to, but in the meantime, or for younger women, the power is literally in your hands; now is the time to make self-checking a regular habit,” Holly said.
Symptoms to look for are lumps, pain, thickening of the skin, redness, inverted nipples, dimples, skin sores and nipple crust or discharge.
How to ‘Look, Feel, Learn’
Part of good breast health understanding means getting to know your breasts, so you know what’s normal for you.
Starting on October 1st the McGrath Foundation is asking everyone to follow this simple process, developed by its McGrath Breast Care Nurses, and to repeat it once a month.
The more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something has changed.
- 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 have another look.
- Feel – all of your breasts and nipples, looking for anything that isn’t normal for you. Feel from your collarbone to below the bra-line and under your armpit too.
- Learn – what is normal for you! Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, so get to know your normal. See your Doctor if you notice any changes.
Examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. If you are no longer having periods, choose a day that’s easy to remember, like the first or last day of the month.
Many people are surprised to learn that in addition to the 19,866 women, 164 men are also expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. So it’s also important for men to be breast aware.[ii]
For more information on breast health understanding visit: mcgrathfoundation.com.au/breastawareness
To find your nearest McGrath Breast Care Nurse, visit mcgrathfoundation.com.au/get-support/find-a-nurse
[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2018, “Analysis of breast cancer outcomes and screening behaviour for BreastScreen Australia”, 26 Nov 2018, accessed 25 August 2021 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer-screening/breastcancer-outcomes-screening-behaviour-programs/contents/table-of-contents
[ii]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Cancer data in Australia. Cat. no. CAN 122. Canberra: AIHW. Accessed June 2021; https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia