Women between 20-40 years should know the normal look and feel of their breasts and report any unusual changes to their GP. This is the advice of the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC) in its recent Cheeky Checkup campaign.
About 700 women under 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year. Breast cancer in younger women is more aggressive and has a lower survival rate compared to older women.
Women are now advised to simply get to know their breasts by looking and feeling at regular intervals as a part of everyday life. This is even more important in younger women, as mammograms (breast X-rays) are not effective under the age of 40 years.
Most experts now agree that breast self-examination using a formal, structured technique is not necessary (at any age).
Look for these changes in your breasts
· A new lump or lumpiness
· A change in the size or shape of your breast
· A change in the nipple, such as crusting or inversion
· A change in the skin of your breast, such as redness or dimpling
· An unusual pain that doesn’t go away.
Most importantly, report any changes in your breasts promptly to your GP. Most breast changes are not due to cancer. However, urgent review can save lives when cancer is the cause.
Some ways to reduce your risk
· Keep alcohol to 2 or less standard drinks a day
· Exercise regularly
· Have children at a younger age
· Breastfeed for 12 months or longer.
Take a look at the Cheeky Checkup
website which provides more information for younger women on breast cancer.