October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Australia, an annual campaign aimed at driving awareness of breast cancer, the importance of early detection and the impact it has on those affected by the disease.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) and is devastatingly the second most common cancer to cause death in women after lung cancer. In 2019 alone it is estimated that there will be 19,535 new cases of breast cancer, 19,371 in females and 164 in males.

It may come as a surprise to some that men can develop breast cancer, however they have a small amount of breast tissue, so are also susceptible to the disease.

For the best chance of surviving breast cancer early detection is key. When breast cancer is detected early in the localised stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100 per cent.

Australian women are encouraged this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts. Changes you should look out for include:

  • A new lump or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast
  • A change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion
  • A nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
  • A change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling
  • An unusual pain that doesn’t go away

If you are aged between 50 and 74, BreastScreen Australia offers a free mammogram for women without symptoms, every two years. Women aged 40 to 49 and 75 years and older who have no breast cancer symptoms or signs are also eligible for free mammograms.

Federal Health Minister, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP released a statement earlier this month (October 1, 2019) to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, highlighting initiatives the Australian Government is taking to support this disease.

“From 1 November 2019, Medicare will subsidise breast cancer scans, saving women up to $1,500 per scan, and PET scans for advanced breast cancer, saving up to $1,000 per scan.

“We have also increased our commitment to McGrath Foundation breast cancer nurses. An additional $27.7 million will see the number of Commonwealth-funded nurses rise from 57 to 98 by 2022–23,” said Greg Hunt.

For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness Month and ways you can show your support visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. website and the McGrath Foundation.