This article was published on 96.5WaveFM blog and we thought it was definitely worth publishing again here for our visitors!

“My name is Jennifer and I have breast cancer”

I have been following this young women’s journey on Facebook since her diagnoses two years ago. I have also been following the journey of many young women in the Illawarra who are also fighting the fight against breast cancer and it breaks my heart to hear their stories.

I have been working with women affected by breast cancer for 20 years and it still affects me when I hear that women are still losing their breast and lives to breast cancer. This is a hideous disease and has terrible side effects. They not only lose their breast but are affected in so many other ways. Many of them lose their self confidence, their sensuality and body image. They can experience hair loss, nausea, fatigue and for young women early menopause plus many more terrible side effects.

Although not up to date as of 2008 Statistics state there has not been an increase in diagnoses of breast cancer in women under 40 years over the last 27 years, however in my business of fitting women with prostheses post surgery I can say I have seen more younger women in the last 2 years than I have in previous years.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that originates in the cells of the breast. Cancer develops when cells grow abnormally and multiply. These abnormal cells develop into cancerous growths that can, in some cases, spread (metastasise) to other areas of the body.

What are the facts?

• Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia.
• One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
• In 2014, 15,270 women were predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia.
• In 2020, 17,210 women are predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia. This is an average of 47 women every day.
• Increasing age is one of the strongest risk factors for developing breast cancer. More than two in three cases of breast cancer occur in women aged between 40 and 69 years.
• Around 800 are under 40 years of age
• Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 89% chance of surviving five years after diagnosis.
• Increase in survival rate is attributed to earlier detection of breast cancer and improved treatment outcomes for breast cancer.
• On average, seven women die from breast cancer every day in Australia.
• Finding breast cancer early increases the chance of surviving the disease.
• Although rare, breast cancer can also affect men, accounting for about 1% of cases. Around 110 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year.

Finding breast cancer early greatly increases the chances of surviving the disease. Women who are diagnosed at an earlier stage of disease generally have higher survival rates than women diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer.

Early detection can significantly improve breast cancer survival rates, allowing physicians and oncologist’s time to appropriately treat the cancer.

Being breast aware

Every woman should become familiar with how her breasts feel and look so she can more easily identify changes she feels or sees in her breasts. Any changes in your breasts should be discussed with your health-care professional.

Breast self-examinations (BSE) is one way a woman can track any changes in her breasts. It is so important to know how, when, and what to look for when doing (BSE).

BreastAware Australia a locally founded community based NFP organisation provides education to the community on breast cancer awareness through workshops at High Schools, corporate groups and community groups of men and women.

BreastAware is about educating and empowering you to take control of your own personal health and well being. Learning correct Breast Self Examination (BSE) procedures will help minimise your risk of losing your breast and or life to breast cancer.

While there are many organisations creating awareness and raising funds for breast cancer research and caring for women post breast cancer I believe there is not enough done in regard to prevention and early detection of breast cancer.

Until such times that we have a cure for breast cancer we need to focus on the prevention.

What should I look out for?

• A lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast tissue.
• Skin changes such as dimpling, puckering or redness.
• Nipple changes such as an unusual discharge, the nipple pointing in rather than out (unless it has always been this way) or an itchy/ulcerated area.
• A part of the breast that feels different from the rest of the breast.
• A new and persistent pain.

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