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.

Many people do not realise that men can develop breast cancer. While breast cancer in men is uncommon, it is both rarer and more difficult to detect in men of any age and the harms of screening mammograms are currently assessed as outweighing the benefits. For this reason men of all ages are instead encouraged to report any changes or concerns they have about their breasts to their doctor.

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 around a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. (Qld Cancer Registry, 2015)
  • Breast cancer death rates are continuing to fall, decreasing by around 11% during the 10 year period 2003-2013 (Qld Cancer Registry, 2015).
  • The five-year breast cancer survival rate has increased from 74% in 1982-1988 to around 90% in 2009-2013 (Qld Cancer Registry, 2015)
  • Regular screening remains the most effective proven method of intervention in reducing breast cancer morbidity and mortality.
  • Breast cancer is uncommon in men, accounting for less than 1% of all breast cancers.

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 moderate physical activity every day.

Last reviewed 13 June 2018 Last updated 15 June 2018

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BreastScreen Queensland reopens

Following a temporary suspension of routine breast screening across the State, some BreastScreen Queensland services are starting to screen again.

The recommencement of breast screening varies across the State. If you had an appointment cancelled, your local service will contact you to schedule a new appointment.

BreastScreen Queensland is an important early detection service for women, which reduces illness and death from breast cancer. To make an appointment please call us on 13 20 50 or book online.

Please note that online bookings are currently not available for the Rockhampton and Wide Bay Services, however, if you live in these areas you can still access your online account to view mail from BreastScreen Queensland, including reminders, forms, your results and update your personal details if needed.

We understand that some women may have concerns about attending screening at this time. If this is you, please talk to your doctor who knows you best, about whether breast screening at this time is right for you based on your individual circumstances.

The wellbeing of women and our staff is always our top priority and BreastScreen Queensland services are implementing a range of strategies to minimise and address risks from COVID-19 for women who attend for breast screening and our staff. As such, we ask that you reschedule your appointment if you are feeling unwell or you are required to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to COVID-19.

All women are encouraged to remain aware of the normal look and feel of their breasts. If you notice any changes please see your doctor immediately, do not wait until your next breast screen. Breast changes to look out for include:

If you have any questions or concerns, please call your local BreastScreen Queensland service on 13 20 50.

We will continue to keep you updated here on our website about the availability of breast screening services during this time.

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