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Breast awareness and screening as essential as ever

Friday 18 July, 2008

A significant review of research into the effectiveness of breast self-examination (BSE) has prompted The Cancer Council Victoria to remind women of the importance of regular screening and being ‘breast aware'.

An updated review of two major international studies, published by the Cochrane Library, states there is no evidence that systematic BSE improves survival outcomes for breast cancer.

Manager of Cancer Education Programs at The Cancer Council Victoria, Alison Peipers, said the findings weren't new but provided an opportunity to remind women of the importance of two yearly screening mammograms from the age of 50, when risk of breast cancer is highest.

"Screening mammography is the best method available for detecting breast cancer early, and is the only tool we have for early detection that has been shown to reduce population mortality from breast cancer," said Ms Peipers.

Ms Peipers said women should not be disheartened by the findings about BSE.

"In Australia, more than half of breast cancers are found after a woman or her doctor notices a change in her breast. The majority of cancers found in this way are early stage and can be treated conservatively, with surgery that removes as little of the breast as possible.

"Our advice to women is for them to be breast aware and see their doctor if they notice any new or unusual changes. Breast awareness is about being familiar with your own body and knowing what's normal for you. There is no specific technique or regularity, as there is no evidence of the effectiveness of one method over another. It's about finding what works for you," said Ms Peipers.

Almost 12,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year, and Australian women have a 1 in 9 chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 85.

What does it mean to be ‘breast aware'?

  • Get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts.
  • See your doctor if you notice any unusual changes.
  • If you are aged 50-69, have a free mammogram at BreastScreen every 2 years.

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