Caring for your breasts means getting to know them and being aware of the problems that may arise within them. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and affects 1 in 8 women over their lifetime. However, there are a multitude of other conditions that can affect the breast. Most of these are benign, but can cause anxiety to a person if not dealt with appropriately.
Therefore, it is important to get into a routine of checking your breasts.
- We recommend that you develop a routine, which suits you best and stick to it. This includes checking your breasts at regular intervals, preferably monthly and at the same time of your cycle, as the breast may feel different at different times of the month.
- Position is also important as this affects what you feel. Common approaches are to check whilst you are in the shower or lying down. Elevating your arm on the side being examined is also helpful in properly examining the tail of the breast as it tapers into the armpit.
The other aspect of the check is to remember what you are looking for.
- Most common signs that you may be able to pick up are lumps in the breast. If you do find a lump, consider whether it is a new lump or it has been there before and for how long. Remember that most of these lumps are benign, but it is important to make sure and a check is worthwhile with your doctor, particularly if you picking up something new.
- Other signs you may encounter that need investigation are skin and nipple changes such as inversion, dimpling, scaly skin and unusual breast pain. There may be a general change in shape and size of the breast. Always compare to the other breast if you are unsure.
- Less common findings that you may encounter may include nipple discharge or skin redness or orange-peel look on the breast skin.
- If you do encounter changes, do not panic. Most likely these will be benign. However, you should get them checked with your doctor as they can also represent a breast cancer. Your doctor will perform a breast examination and may organize imaging of the breast with a Mammogram +/- Ultrasound if warranted. Sometimes a biopsy will be required to further define any uncertain or suspicious findings seen on imaging or felt by the doctor.
- Remember if Breast cancer is picked up early it has an excellent prognosis. So if you have any concerns, do get it checked early.
- Screening Mammograms have been shown to be helpful in identifying cancer at an earlier stage and have reduced breast cancer mortality since they have been introduced. The current recommendation by BreastScreen Australia is to start screening Mammograms from age 50, although many other centers recommend a starting age of 40. The recommendation is for screening every 2 years.
- If you have significant high family history of breast cancer, you do need to be more diligent in your checks and a more intensive screening protocol is recommended, usually at yearly intervals from age 40 or 5 years earlier than the youngest family member with breast cancer.
- Women who use HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), should be aware that there is an increase of breast cancer particularly after 5 years of use (although it is not as great as once thought). The risk varies depending on the type of HRT used. If at all possible we recommend for women to come off HRT after 5 years of use or to try alternative medications to deal with specific symptoms that bother them, as the risk continues to rise the longer you stay on HRT.
DR MICHAEL YUNAEV
“Dr Michael is a Specialist OncoPlastic and Cosmetic Breast and General Surgeon and is the Principal Doctor at Breast & Body Clinic. Dr Yunaev is a highly trained Surgeon with extensive experience and passion for treatment of all aspects of Breast Cancer Surgery, Benign and Congenital Breast Disease and Aesthetic Breast and Body Surgery, as well as General Surgery.”
DR YUNAEV SPECIALISES IN THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES: