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Checks & Exercise can Reduce Cancer Risk

Thinking Pink this month and soothing sore feet after the Cancer Council, Relay for Life weekend, helps us reflect on one of the most prevalent forms of cancer to affect our community: Breast Cancer.

Getting to know your breasts, whether you are male or female, is an important monthly routine that should be instilled in our teens.

Breast cancer affects 13,000 women and 100 men per year in Australia. 1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85, a quarter of these women are younger than 50years. Fortunately, the survival rate has risen with recent statistics suggesting a survival rate of 88% 5 years from diagnosis.

The risks of developing breast cancer are varied with many cases demonstrating no known cause. Age is a major risk factor, with most breast cancer occurring after 50 years of age., Family history and genetics play a large role, previous cancer or predisposition to certain breast conditions also have an effect. In men the risks are the same , with greatest influence being family members with an early history of breast cancer (under 40 years) or relatives with colon or ovarian cancer (Cancer Council 2011)

The human breast changes in shape and feel regularly during the monthly hormone cycle in pre menstrual women. It s therefore important to understand the “usual” feeling of your breast and regularly check for changes. Breast cancer presents in many forms, so being vigilant to ensure early detection and treatment is vital for better outcomes.

Feel for lumps, thickening and lumpiness in the breast and armpit. Pain that persists in one breast or is unusual for that part of your menstrual cycle is also not normal. Looking for changes in the breast shape, colour or skin contour as well as nipple health including discharges, colour and signs of inversion are also cause for a trip to your GP.

Our region is fortunate to have easy access to excellent diagnostic services such as mammogram and ultrasound, breast surgeons, oncologists and chemotherapy unit, radiation oncologists and services at the new Border Cancer Centre and ancillary health care workers, such as, McGrath breast care nurses, physiotherapists and psychologists. Support for those with breast cancer abounds through the Breast Cancer Support Group, Bravehearts on the Murray, Look Good, Feel Good group and Wellness activities that include Nordic pole walking and hydrotherapy.

Being active is an important part of recovery and management of symptoms during the treatment of breast cancer. Studies indicate that cardiac and resistance based exercise have positive effects on immunity, assisting with managing chemotherapy, mood and risk reduction of lymphoedema (swelling). Exercise also assists with weight control and fatigue and ensures an optimal outcome with posture and upper back related issues following surgery, which can include removal of the breast, in some cases.

The Cancer Council encourages regular moderate level exercise (150 minutes per week) to also reduce the risk of cancer and also reduce the recurrence of some cancers, including the breast. A follow up with your oncologist or medical practitioner is recommended before commencing an individually designed exercise program by your physiotherapist.