Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells lining the breast lobules (milk-producing glands) and breast ducts (passages that drain milk from the lobules towards the nipple). Sometimes it can also begin in the fatty and fibrous tissue of the breast (see Figure 1: view of the female breast from the inside). The breast cancer cells grow uncontrollably and over time can spread into surrounding breast tissue. This is called ‘invasive breast cancer’ and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
In the ACT Region, 1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85 — higher than the national average (nationally it is 1 in 8 women).
The higher rate may be because more women are breast aware and use early detection (self-examination and mammograms) due to our socio-economic profile. While the detection rate is rising in this region so is the survival rate.
Breast cancer is not an older woman’s disease; it does affect young women. More than a third of breast cancers are diagnosed in women younger than 50, and 6.5% of detected cancers are in women younger than 40.
Some people have no symptoms and the cancer is found during a screening mammogram or a physical examination by a doctor.
If you do have symptoms, they could include:
- new lumps or thickening in the breast or under the arm
- nipple sores
- nipple discharge or turning in
- changes in the size or shape of breast
- skin of the breast dimpling
- rash or swollen breasts
For more information or for local services go to:
ACT Cancer Council
Bosom Buddies ACT
Breast Screening ACT
Breast Cancer Network Australia
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Cancer Council Australia