Breast cancer is not just for women aged 50 to 74

07/Feb/2024     Mater GroupWomen's Health

Mater Private Hospital Springfield breast and endocrine surgeon Susan Bell has stressed the need for women to screen for breast cancer often and early, conduct regular self-examinations, and to know the lifestyle factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. 

Dr Bell said although breast cancer awareness in Australia was relatively strong, there was still work to be done when it came to understanding the screening and preventative measures available. 

“I think we need to make sure the message of regular breast self-examination being crucial to early detection comes through,” she said. 

Beyond self-checks, Dr Bell said, there was a lack of knowledge about the early risk assessment and screening options available to Australian women. 

“This means we can still miss when it comes to early detection and prevention,” she said. 

“For example, there is an online breast cancer risk assessment questionnaire called iPrevent, designed to help women from 18-to-70 better understand and minimise their risk of developing breast cancer, which is accessible to everyone.” 

Dr Bell said key breast-cancer risk factors like alcohol consumption and obesity were still misunderstood by many Australian women. 

“Drinking less and regular exercise have long been associated with longevity and better quality of life, but the link with breast cancer can be overlooked,” she said. 

Across the board, Dr Bell said, when it comes to breast cancer, earlier is always better. 

“BreastScreen Australia’s national screening program is excellent, but it’s important to understand it is not limited to women between 50 and 74,” she said. 

“Women in Australia over the age of 40 can have a free mammogram every two years and many people are not aware of that. 

“My mantra when it comes to screening, is the same as when it comes to understanding personal risk, the sooner you do it, the better.” 

Dr Bell said although a breast cancer diagnosis is daunting, it is always an honour for her to be part of the team accompanying women on their journey. 

“For patients who go through surgery and other breast cancer treatment, you often see a complete transformation, and women can be much stronger people as breast cancer survivors,” she said. 

“I love being part of the team that can have an impact on those patients’ lives for the better.” 

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