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Breast Cancer in Men and Women

Breast cancer is the most common female cancer accounting for 20% of all female cancers. One woman in every eleven will develop breast cancer at some time. Risk factors associated with breast cancer are increasing age (especially over the age of 50), family history of breast cancer, previous female cancers, early onset of periods, late menopause, having no children or having children over the age of 30, alcohol consumption, being overweight and previous hormone treatments.

Breast cancer day encourages us all to be ‘breast aware’ – men included. Most people don’t realise that men can get breast cancer but men do have breast tissue just less than women. Breast tissue in men lies just below the nipple. While breast cancer is rare in men it accounts for approximately 1% of all breast cancer. Men get the same breast cancer that women do. You are at higher risk as you get older and if there is a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancers. There is a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome that affects some men which increases their risk of breast cancer.

Breast cancer appears in men just the same as it appears in women so what must we all look for? Look for a change in shape of the breast or differences between the breasts. Look for changes in the appearance of the skin of the breast. Look for a change in the shape or appearance of the nipple. Gently squeeze the nipple looking for a discharge. Examine your breasts regularly – every month is best. Women who are still having periods may find it best to examine after their periods when the breasts are less lumpy. If you are unsure how to examine your breasts properly then discuss with your GP.

Examine regularly and get to know your breasts. Once you know what’s normal you can recognise changes. It is important to report changes to your GP immediately who will examine you and refer you to a specialist for further assessment. If you notice any changes do not refer yourself for a mammogram as this is only one of three tests advised to investigate breast changes.

Remember BreastScreen Australia offer free mammograms for all ladies aged over 40. They specifically target the 50-69 age groups. Mammograms are recommended every 2 years. Mammograms are not a substitute for regular breast self examination – do both. Phone 13 20 50 to book your free mammogram if you are 50 or over and have not had a mammogram in the last 2 years. If you need more information about mammograms then see your GP

Remember Pink Ribbon Day. Become breast aware – not just for one day but forever. Buy a ribbon or wear something pink – that includes the men!