• Jessica Taylor Yates

A Handy Guide To Checking Your Own Boobs

Think it doesn't have anything to do with you? Think again, my friend.

Source: BreastScreen Victoria (edited)


-October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let's talk about it -

Ever seen those ads that are like, 'Check your breasts for anything unusual' and you're like, 'Um, I have no fucking idea what to do, or what I'm looking for? Or maybe you're like, 'Ugh, that's not me, I'm fine, it's not in my family.' You're not alone. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't check. Luckily, we have an expert on hand to guide us through. Friend of LAL Lisa Hochberg is a Project Manager with BreastScreen Victoria, and is here to give us the lowdown on our bewbsss.



What is it you do?

Um, not this. Source: GiPHY


I work for BreastScreen Victoria (BSV), which is part of a government-funded national screening program to find breast cancer early. I manage projects that educate diverse communities about breast cancer and early detection, hopefully leading to their participation in early detection screening (mammograms/breast x-rays). I also manage behavioural research projects looking into why people don’t check for cancer early, and trial/evaluate strategies to increase participation in cancer screening programs...ok I’ll stop there before I lose you. (Ed: you weren't losing me, but it made me think about what I do in my day compared to this, and the answer is...not a lot).

How many women in Australia get Breast Cancer (BC)? Give us some stats.

Source: GiPHY


  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with 1 in 7 women diagnosed by the age of 85.

  • Males can get it too, but of all cases diagnosed, only 1% of them are in men.

  • 75% of breast cancer occurs in women aged 50+.

  • Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

  • Only 5% of women are at a moderately increased risk or high risk of breast cancer due to family history.

  • In good news, the 5-year survival rate is 90%.

  • There are currently 392,451 people living in Victoria who are eligible for a free breast screen with BSV and are not screening regularly, which is recommended every two-years between 50-74 years. (BreastScreen Victoria participation data 2017-19).

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with 1 in 7 women diagnosed by the age of 85

How can I check my own? What am I looking for?

Boobies! Source: GiPHY


You can check on your own, but this shouldn’t stop you from getting a mammogram every two years when age-appropriate. I've put a list of symptoms to look for below. Males, these apply to you too, so keep an eye on your breasticles!

Unusual changes that should be checked by a doctor include:

Source: BreastScreen Victoria


· A lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast

· A change in the size or shape of the breast

· Changes to the nipple such as a change in shape, crusting, a sore or an ulcer, redness or an inversion of the nipple

· Discharge from the nipple: especially if this occurs without squeezing (sexy)

· Changes in the skin of the breast such as any puckering or dimpling of the skin, unusual redness or other colour change

· Unusual pain, which is not related to the normal monthly cycle, occurs in one breast only and is persistent

The thing to know about these symptoms is some of them are normal for people. It’s when they appear and are not normal for you that you should see a GP.


Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

What do I do if I think I feel something weird?

Source: GiPHY


Go see a GP straight away.


At what age can I get a mammogram?

Source: BreastScreen Victoria


Technically, you can get a mammogram at any age if you go privately and pay for it. But it’s not the best way to detect cancer in younger women, because your breast tissue is too dense to see it. If you have symptoms and see a GP, you will probably have an ultrasound if you are younger than 40. Women can screen with BreastScreen Victoria (or any state screening program) for FREE from the age of 40, but most women start at 50. Sorry, that wasn’t the straightforward answer you were looking for, but cancer never is straightforward.

What’s normal/not normal?

Source: BreastScreen Victoria


There is no normal. Some people have lumpy breasts, some people have one breast larger than the other, some people have inverted nipples (yes, it’s a thing). It is knowing what is normal for you, and if you notice any changes, go see a GP. Also, important to note that your boobies can change over time with things like pregnancy, breastfeeding and weight loss/gain.

What causes it?

Source: GiPHY


This is a little long and not so straight forward. Getting older essentially causes it (yay something we can’t stop). Hormones cause it. Family history can cause it. Other environmental factors may cause it. But here are some myth busters of what doesn't cause it:

· Aluminium and other products - there is no scientific evidence to suggest that deodorant, underwire in a bra, aluminium pots and pans or microwaves cause breast cancer.

· Breast implants cause cancer – breast implants do not cause cancer, but can make it harder to do a self-examination. You can still get a breast screen if you have implants.

· Working Night shifts - a study of 100,000 women over a decade has found that night shifts do not increase the risk of breast cancer.


There is no normal.


How can I support this cause?

Source: BreastScreen Victoria


Remind your mum, grandma, aunty or loved ones who are 50+ to have a breast screen every two years (and bowel/ cervical screen whilst you’re at it – yay for getting old!).


For yourself - be breast aware and know what is normal for you.

____

Thanks Lisa! For more information, head to BreastScreen Victoria, and if you feel something may be off, head to your GP.

*This is not intended as medical advice and should be used as a guide only. For medical information on breast cancer symptoms and treatments, please speak to your medical health professional.*


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