Do you know about free screening for breast cancer?
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BreastScreen SA provides free screening mammograms every two years, primarily for women aged 50 to 69
Breast cancer, like other cancers, is a disease of the body’s cells, which can start in the Breast health. Sometimes cancer cells stay in the ducts and lobules of the breast, this is called non-invasive breast cancer. If the cancer cells spread into the surrounding tissue, this is called invasive breast cancer. The site where the cancer starts is called the primary cancer.
Breast lumps (tumours) can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Non-cancerous tumours do not spread, but cancerous tumours can invade neighbouring tissues and spread to other parts of the body. This can result in new cancer deposits called secondaries or metastases.
There are several types of breast cancer depending on where the cancer is within the breast, or if it has spread to an area outside the breast.
Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with early breast cancer have no symptoms. This is why getting the recommended What is a breast screen? before any symptoms develop is important.
Diagnosis of breast cancer involves the triple test. This includes:
Other tests, such as blood tests or bone scans, may be done if symptoms suggest that breast cancer has spread outside the breast. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be suggested to assess extent of disease in some cases.
Breast changes that may indicate breast cancer include:
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.
A risk factor is any factor that is associated with an increased chance of developing a particular health condition, such as 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. Even if a person with breast cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Staging involves assessing the size of the breast cancer and whether it has spread to the draining lymph nodes under the arm. A CT scan of the chest and liver and bone scan are done to check the sites to which breast cancers most commonly spread.
Treatment and care of people with cancer is usually provided by a team of health professionals – called a multidisciplinary team.
Treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage and type of the disease, the severity of symptoms and the person’s general health. Treatment usually involves surgery to remove part or all of the affected breast, and removal of one or more lymph nodes from the armpit. Breast reconstruction may be available for women who have the whole breast removed (mastectomy). Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, and/or targeted therapies, may also be used.
People often feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious and upset after a diagnosis of cancer. These are all normal feelings.
Having practical and emotional support during and after diagnosis and treatment for cancer is very important. Support may be available from family and friends, health professionals or special support services.
Sections of the content of this web page are reproduced with permission from Cancer Australia.