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Breast health

About breast cancer

Breast cancer is the name of a disease that develops in breast tissue as a result of abnormal cells. Eventually these cells may form a lump in the breast and can spread, impacting on other parts of the body such as in the lungs, bones and lymph glands.

There are various types of breast cancer, some slow growing and other types that are far more aggressive. At this stage, there is no known cause of breast cancer and no cure. If left untreated, the disease can cause death. Treatment depends on the type of breast cancer diagnosed. However, on a positive note, the rate of deaths from breast cancer has significantly decreased over the years and survival rates have dramatically improved. This is thought to be the result of early detection through breast cancer screening and the availability of more effective treatments.

Fast facts

  • Being female and increasing age are the biggest risk factors in developing breast cancer.
  • Nine out of 10 women who get breast cancer do NOT have a family history of the disease.
  • Most breast cancers occur in women over 50.
  • Queensland women have a one in 10 risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 80. (Qld Cancer Registry, 2010)
  • Breast cancer death rates have been falling since the 1990s and fell 28% from 1994-2006.
  • The five-year breast cancer survival rate has increased from 74% in 1982-1988 to 88.7% in 2003-2007 (Qld Cancer Registry, 2010)
  • Regular screening remains the most effective proven method of intervention in reducing breast cancer morbidity and mortality.

Common myths:

  • I've had a mammogram, I don't need another
  • Women with small breasts do not get breast cancer
  • A bump or blow to the breast will cause breast cancer
  • Wearing a bra or an underwire bra contributes to breast cancer
  • Using deodorant or antiperspirants can give you cancer

Breast cancer risk factors:

What are the main risk factors for breast cancer?

The biggest known risk factors for developing breast cancer are simply being a woman and getting older.

As 76% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, a breastscreen is recommended every two years.

What can women do to reduce their risk of breast cancer?

✓  Reduce alcohol consumption

Having more than one standard alcoholic drink each day can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, so rethink what you drink.

✓  Maintain a healthy body weight

Maintaining a healthy body weight is about getting the right balance between what women eat and how physically active they are.

Overweight or obese post menopausal women are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer but the good news is, that for most women, a waistline measurement of less than 80cm or a BMI (Body Mass Index) less than 25 decreases their risk of breast cancer.

✓  Be active every day

Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Aim for 30 minutes or more of physical activity every day.

Last reviewed 11 December 2015
Last updated 11 December 2015

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