With Breast Surgeon Dr Mary Ling
Queenslander Bianca Innes became the youngest Australian diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 20. Whilst breast cancer is far less common in young women, there are still over 900 women under the age of 40 who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Australia.
Furthermore, the State of Nation report by Breast Cancer Network Australia, which surveyed 15 000 people living with breast cancer, found that women under the age of 40 were more likely to be dismissed by health professionals as ‘too young to have breast cancer’ when presenting with symptoms, leading to delayed diagnosis.
Kylie Minogue, diagnosed at age 36 after being given the all-clear just weeks before, has this advice for young women: “Just because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they are right…if you have any doubt, go back again”.
Here are 3 ways to be your own breast advocate
1 BE BREAST AWARE
Breast screening with mammograms is not offered to women under the age of 40. Why? Young women tend to have dense breast tissue, making it more difficult to distinguish normal from abnormal breast tissue on a mammogram and therefore limiting its usefulness. The most effective method for early detection in young women is being breast aware, meaning knowing how your breasts normally look and feel and reporting any unusual changes to your doctor. Four out of five young women diagnosed with breast cancer find their breast abnormality themselves. Do the three point DIY breast check (right).
2 CALCULATE YOUR RISK
iPrevent is a free online tool that calculates your lifetime risk for breast cancer based on your family cancer history, lifestyle and reproductive risk factor information. It also provides personalized advice on breast cancer screening and the need for genetic counselling and testing if there are ‘red flags’ in your family history to suggest hereditary breast cancer. Whilst you cannot change some of your risk factors for breast cancer, such as your family history, you can have choices in how to manage your risk.
Dr Mary Ling
Breast & General Surgeon
Rapid Access Appointments within 48 hours
for patients with new diagnosis of breast cancer