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Being breast aware: a 101

Early diagnosis and screening of breast cancer is key to successful treatment and recovery.

How well do you know your breasts? Familiar enough to notice a change in size, shape, colour or texture? In Australia, 48 women on average are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. And while we may have one of the highest survival rates in the world, early detection is key.

Being ‘breast aware’

It’s important you are familiar with the way your breasts look and feel normally, so you can detect any new or unusual changes. Additionally, as 78% of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women over 50, it’s recommended those aged 50-74 have a mammogram (breast x-ray) every two years.

Getting to know your breasts is important as it will help you to recognise the following symptoms or changes often associated with breast cancer.

Any changes in size or shape

A rash or redness on or around the nipple

Any kind of liquid, clear or bloody from the nipple

Any swelling or discomfort in the armpit

A lump, lumpiness or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast, especially if it is only in one breast

Dimpling or any other changes in skin texture such as a rash, scaly appearance, unusual redness or other colour changes

An inverted nipple that used to stick out or any other changes in nipple shape

Any unusual or persistent pain not related to your monthly menstrual cycle

Commenting on the importance of early detection, Cancer Council CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda said:

“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer diagnoses for Australian women, and can affect any age group. That’s why we encourage all women to get to know their breasts, learn the signs and symptoms to watch out for, and for those aged 50 – 74 to participate in the national breast screen program. Most common breast cancers have a good prognosis if found and treated early on, so taking the time to get to know your breasts and report any change to your doctor as soon as possible.”

MORE: Learn more about common cancers in Australia

Remember, many breast changes are not caused by cancer. However if you have one of the symptoms listed above, visit your GP and have it correctly diagnosed. If you’re a Medibank member with hospital cover, you can also call the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line any time on 1800 644 325.

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