Do you know how to check yourself for breast cancer?
Radiation therapy is an important treatment for different types of cancer,1 but you may have questions about how and why it’s used – and whether it’s safe for you or your loved ones. We’re here to help with key information about the use of radiation therapy in cancer treatment.
Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia (data as of 2018)1
It is thought that there will be over 20,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2022, which will make up 12.7% of all cancers diagnosed that year.1 Luckily, there is a 92% chance of surviving at least five years after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.1
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month make sure you know how to check yourself for the signs of breast cancer - because early detection increases your chances of survival.1
What is radiation therapy?
How do you check yourself for breast cancer?
The key here is knowing your breasts, how they normally look and feel. You can do this when you hop in the shower, when you get dressed or when looking in the mirror.1 Once you are familiar with how your breasts look and feel, keep an eye out for changes such as:1,2
- Lumps or bumps - particularly if it appears only in one breast or appear in your armpits
- Changes to the shape or size of your breasts
- Crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion (where the nipple points in towards you instead of out towards the world) of your nipples
- Discharge coming out of your nipples without being squeezed
- Redness or dimpling (looking like orange peel) on the skin on your breasts
- Unusual pain that won’t go away
Below is an easy guide on how to ‘self-exam’
Treatment options for breast cancer
The earlier you catch breast cancer the more treatment options there are available to you.1 Breast cancer comes in a variety of forms and treatment options will depend on the type and time of diagnosis.2 Options include:2,3
- Surgery - where some or all of the cancerous breast tissue is removed, sometimes along with the lymph nodes in the surrounding areas. If the whole breast is removed this is called a ‘mastectomy’ and if only a portion is removed it is called a ‘lumpectomy’.
- Radiation therapy - this is where a controlled dose of radiation is used to kill or damage the cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to mop up any leftover cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy - where anticancer drugs are used to kill cancer cells in your body - chemotherapy can be used before or after surgery or together with radiation therapy.
- Hormone therapy - where drugs that reduce your body’s levels of oestrogen or progesterone are given to stop or slow down breast cancers that react to these hormones.
- Targeted therapy - uses drugs that have been designed to attack specific features of cancer cells. Not all types of breast cancer will have these features, so targeted therapy is only an option for certain types of breast cancer.
If you notice any unusual changes in your breasts contact your doctor immediately.
Find out more about breast cancer here
Any medical procedure or treatment involving the use of radiation carries risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Before proceeding with treatment, you should discuss the risks and benefits of the treatment with an appropriately qualified health practitioner. Individual treatment outcomes and experiences will vary.
- Cancer Australia. Breast Cancer. Available from: https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/cancer-types/breast-cancer/overview (accessed August 2023).
- HealthDirect. Breast cancer. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/breast-cancer (accessed August 2023).
- Cancer Council. Understanding breast cancer. Available from: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/breast-cancer/about-breast-cancer/ (accessed August 2023).