Westmead Breast Cancer Institute doctors urge women to be breast aware

Women are being encouraged to routinely check their breasts and speak to a doctor as soon as they notice any changes in order to help detect breast cancer early.

Westmead Breast Cancer Institute director Associate Professor Nirmala Pathmanathan said it is more important than ever for women to remain breast aware following the decision by BreastScreen NSW to temporarily suspend all routine breast screening services in NSW due to COVID-19.

Associate Professor Nirmala Pathmanathan

“BreastScreen is for well women with no symptoms of breast cancer. Be assured that this is a temporary measure while we deal with the immediate threat of COVID-19. We will be contacting all women who have a screening mammogram due and will reschedule these appointments,” Assoc Prof Pathmanathan said.

“This is a challenging time for NSW and it’s important we don’t let other aspects of our health fall by the wayside while we focus on the serious threat of COVID-19.”

Breast cancer is common and affects 1 in 7 women in Australia.

“Checking your breasts regularly is the best way to notice any change. You should check your breasts at least every few months,” Assoc Prof Pathmanathan said.

“You may feel awkward doing this the first time but it gets easier as you get used to it. Checking your breasts is simple and could save your life.

“If you notice any changes, speak to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend further tests and can provide a referral.”

To check your breasts, you need to look at them in the mirror and then feel for lumps. When you check your breasts in the mirror, look for:

  • changes in the size and shape
  • dimpling, puckering or skin changes
  • anything different about your nipples

You should also look out for any discharge from the nipple, especially if it is bloody or it happens without squeezing the nipple, and any pain in the breast that is unusual for you.

If you have any concerns, speak to your GP. Diagnostic services remain open and your GP will advise you on any tests that you may need.

Read our Breast Health Fact Sheet and the BreastScreen NSW symptoms awareness page for more information, and visit the Westmead Breast Cancer Institute website for ongoing updates and advice.