Ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness month, a new national survey points to a surprising number of Australian women still living in the dark about their personal breast cancer risk.
While almost two in three women know someone diagnosed with breast cancer, only 23% admit to undertaking adequate self-detection steps, and just under half with an immediate family member diagnosed is unaware of their heightened risk.
The findings are concerning, as having an immediate blood relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer not only doubles a woman’s risk but lack of timely detection at an early stage increases the chance of the cancer spreading, which may make it harder to treat and beat.
To help combat the complacency, media personality Tracey Spicer has fronted a new documentary to encourage women to arm themselves with knowledge of their personal health profile and take action.
Called Let’s Talk About Breasts, the documentary follows Spicer, who confesses to going seven years without a mammogram, on a very personal quest through her own detection experience and showcases a group of her closest friends sharing their deepest fears, hopes and encounters with the disease.
“I am on a mission to empower as many women as I can to take action to get to know their breasts and cancer risk,” says Spicer.
“The ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality must stop because complacency is the worst enemy of a woman at high risk.”
Cancer is a topic close to Spicer’s heart, with one side of her family decimated by the disease, her own breast cancer scare, and dense breast tissue putting her at heightened risk.
While the national breast screening program invites women from the age of 50 to undergo traditional 2D mammograms, accepted as the gold standard in screening, it is not without limitations for diagnostic testing.
Breast Radiologist at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Dr Clair Shadbolt, says, “Breast structures can overlap in a traditional 2D mammogram, which can cause some cancers to be missed or produce ‘false alarms’ as normal tissue can appear as abnormal. This can lead to unnecessary further testing and increased patient anxiety.
Although survival rates continue to improve, now 96% at five years, breast cancer is still a reality faced by many women and their families and vigilance is vital.
Close to eight in 10 are not regularly performing self-checks as recommended.