Unfortunately, every year, more than 1,450 West Australian women face a breast cancer diagnosis. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re urging women to listen to their bodies and react quickly to any unusual changes.
Being aware of changes in your breasts can mean prompt screening and early diagnosis which, in turn, can improve treatment outcomes.
Broome resident and breast cancer champion, Lucianne Vandelaur, ignored her breast pain symptoms for nearly five years and feels that she probably could have avoided chemotherapy if she had acted on them sooner.
“My partner noticed a lump in my breast when I was in my early 40s, but I dismissed his concerns,” Lucianne said.
“As someone who tested biopsies for a living, I had a gut feeling about what the lump was but chose to do nothing due to an intense fear of having a biopsy taken.”
“A couple of years later, I noticed a pain in my breast and again, due to lack of courage, I once again ignored the symptom.”
“Finally, after about six months, the pain escalated to the point that I made an appointment with my GP. I had also been feeling extremely fatigued and thought it may have been a problem with my thyroid.”
Being breast aware
Melissa Treby, our Cancer Education and Screening Manager, says that being breast aware and knowing what changes to look out for could help you find breast cancer early, increasing the chance of successful treatment.
“In 2019, 1,890 West Australian females were diagnosed with breast cancer, making breast cancer responsible for almost a third of all cancer cases diagnosed in women, and 252 females died from the disease,” Melissa said.
“If you’re unsure about a possible symptom, you should make an appointment to discuss the change with your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible. This is particularly important if it’s been more than four weeks since you first noticed the change.”
“Everyone’s breasts are different. It is important that you get to know what your breasts look and feel like, so you know what is normal for you. There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts.”
What to look out for
- A lump or hard area in your breast or underarm, especially if it is only on one side.
- Change in the look of your breast: your skin looks like the skin of an orange, your skin looks and feels different in one area, redness, or rash.
- Changes to the nipple: pulled inwards, leaking, itchy or has a sore that won’t heal.
- Breast pain or discomfort, especially if it is only on one side.
- A change in the size, shape or feel of your breast.