October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October, Australia’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, provides an opportunity for us all to focus on breast cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Survival rates continue to improve in Australia with 89 out of every 100 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer now surviving five or more years beyond diagnosis.

The diagnosis and management of breast cancer relies upon a number of specialist skills provided by a multidisciplinary team including breast surgeons, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists.  Global Diagnostics provides a diagnostic breast imaging service at South West Health Campus, Bunbury to complement the high level breast care and surgery provided on site and provide the full range of breast imaging including mammography, ultrasound, MRI, nuclear medicine, core biopsy, fine needle aspiration and stereotactic procedures and pre-op localisation procedures.

The aim of diagnostic breast imaging is to optimise the early and accurate diagnosis of breast abnormalities. Mammography is the primary breast imaging technique for the investigation of symptomatic women 35 years and over, and for the screening of asymptomatic women aged 50–69 years.  Ultrasound is the most common complement to mammography, and may be the primary and only imaging modality used for the investigation of breast symptoms in women less than 35 years and in women who are pregnant or lactating.

With increasing awareness of the benefits of early detection of breast cancer, and prompt reporting of breast changes by patients, there is likely to be an increase in the proportion of patients undergoing assessment of symptoms in whom a malignancy is not present. All medical practitioners are aware that investigation of a breast abnormality or assessment of a breast change can be an anxiety-inducing experience for women, and significant effort is constantly made to reduce both false negative and false positive results.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages. The latest recommendations from Cancer Australia for breast imaging state - Detection of breast cancer while it is still small and confined to the breast provides the best chance of effective treatment for women with the disease. Benefits of early detection include increased survival, increased treatment options and improved quality of life. The early detection methods recommended by the Australian Government’s position statement are:

  • breast awareness – awareness by a woman of the normal look and feel of her breasts

  • clinical breast examination – physical examination of an asymptomatic woman’s breasts by a medical or allied health professional

  • screening mammography – use of mammography in asymptomatic women to detect breast cancer at an early stage (BreastScreen Australia is the national mammographic screening program).

For women of all ages who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer it is recommended that an individualised surveillance program be developed in consultation with the woman’s general practitioner and/or specialist. Depending on age and risk for breast cancer, this might include regular clinical breast examination and breast imaging with mammography and/or ultrasound, with or without Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). There is a Medicare rebate available for the use of MRI in the surveillance and diagnosis of women under 50 years of age at high risk of developing breast cancer, and who have no signs or symptoms of the disease.

For further information on Global Diagnostics breast imaging service, please contact (08) 9726 6999.

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