Breast checks and mammograms

There are 4 steps to being breast aware:

  1. Become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts.
  2. See a doctor if you notice any unusual breast changes.
  3. Have a regular breast examination with a GP at the time of your pap smear
    can be a good time to have your regular check
  4. If you’re aged 50 to 74, have a mammogram every 2 years
    after having your breast examination with a GP.

Finding breast cancer early often means that the breast cancer is small, less likely to have spread to other parts of the body and can be more effectively treated.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow in an uncontrolled way.
Breasts are made up of lobules and ducts surrounded by fatty and connective tissue.
Lobules produce breast milk and ducts carry milk to the nipple.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The symptoms of breast cancer depend on where the tumour is in the breast, the size of the tumour
and how quickly it is growing.

Breast changes that may indicate breast cancer include:

  • a new lump or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast
  • a change in the size or shape of the 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 the breast such as redness or dimpling
  • an unusual pain that doesn’t go away.

There are a number of conditions that may cause these symptoms, not just breast cancer.

If any of these symptoms are experienced, it is important that they are discussed with a doctor.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

There are different types of risk factors, some of which can be modified and some which cannot.

It should be noted that having one or more risk factors does not mean a person will develop breast cancer.

Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop breast cancer, while others with breast cancer may have had no known risk factors.

While the causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, there are a number of factors associated with the risk of developing the disease.

Some of the risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • being a woman (although men can also develop breast cancer)
  • increasing age
  • having a strong family history of breast cancer.
  • having a breast condition such as a personal history of breast cancer, DCIS or LCIS
  • a number of hormonal factors, child-bearing history, personal and lifestyle factors

Diagnosis of breast cancer involves the triple test. This includes:

  • a clinical breast examination
  • imaging tests – which may include a mammogram and/or ultrasound
  • taking a sample of tissue (biopsy) from the breast for examination under a microscope.

Talk to one of our GPs here at our clinic to have regular checks and a better understanding of breast cancer prevention.

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