Ageing increases risk of breast cancer

It was the telephone call women most fear: The woman speaking calmly to me at the other end of my mobile is advising that I need to return  to BreastScreen SA because my rec ent  mammogram had shown “cellular abnormality’’.

The mind plays terrible tricks with such news and within a noni-second I have imagined the very worst outcome. Breast cancer!  But the other, rational part of my brain knows – and here knowledge is the pacifier – that on average only eight women of every 100 recalled for further X-rays, CT scans or biopsies  are found to have cancerous cells in their breasts.

I also know that the earlier breast cancer is detected and treated, the better the chance of survival.  Survival rates in our time are now very high – more than 75 per cent. Therefore, less  than one in four women die of breast cancer within five years of diagnosis.

However, being diagnosed with breast cancer remains the number one fear of women of all ages.

So, with trepidation I attended recently a clinic for more extensive x-rays, but luckily, following a CT-scan I was told the wonderful news that there was no evidence of cancer in my breast tissues.

The numbers of my female friends and relatives who have been diagnosed with the big BC continues to rise to reflect the fact that if we are fortunate enough to live a long life, one in three of us will receive the grim news.  The promoted statistics of the average age of a woman – before she turns 70 – is one in eight.

One of Adelaide’s leading hospitals – St Andrews Hospital – operates on almost 700 women each year for breast cancer. In any group of women gathered socially or for sport or as workmates, it would be unique if there wasn’t at least one woman who has been recalled or who has had a lump removed or a mastectomy.

These facts reflect why I recently spent an afternoon with a group of women sewing on my machine making under-arm cushions for women who have had mastectomies.   It’s my first time, but my colleagues have been meeting for some years – and get together four times a year to sew up all those cushions.

Wise women will never ignore Breast Screen SA’s reminder letters and will continue to self=examine regularly throughout their lives. And, naturally, any woman of any age who becomes aware of a lump or nipple discharge or any other noticeable change in her breasts, will promptly arrange an appointment with her doctor, or BreastScreen SA. Appointments can be made on 13 20 50, or