Let’s talk about breast health

Nikki ParkinsonHealth 46 Comments

Sponsored by Genius 3D Mammography and difw

Let’s talk about breasts.

Mostly when I talk about boobs here on the blog I’m encouraging you to book in for a fitting to wrangle them into a bra that gives your girls the support or uplift they need.

Today, I’m talking about bosies in the hope that you’ll be even more aware of them – and, if over the age of 40, I’m encouraging you to book in for regular and quality breast imaging.

Let's get breast aware | Genius 3D Mammography | difw imaging

October IS Breast Cancer Awareness Month but being aware of your breasts and changes in them is something we should be vigilant about EVERY month.

The seriously awful fact is that right now we all know of at least one woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, is in the middle of treatment or has come out the other side.

Even more tragically, some of us may have been best friends, sisters or daughters of a woman who has not survived this disease.

Dr Paula Sivyer  – a renowned, specialist radiologist working at the front line of breast cancer diagnosis at difw – sees, on average, a breast cancer every two days .

Statistics are everywhere when it comes to breast cancer but this one blows me away as difw is just ONE imaging provider in ONE city – Brisbane.

On this day, I’m extremely grateful that I’m not contributing to the statistic but I’m also extremely grateful that my breasts are in very good hands – now and in the future.

Breast aware

Dr Sivyer says we all should be doing self-examination of our breasts each month (just after a period) so we are aware of how they normally look and feel.

We should be mindful of – and talk our our GP about – any lumps, nipple changes, nipple discharge, change in skin colour or pain.

And all women over 40 should also be booking in for regular and quality breast imaging.

The Australian national Breastscreen program currently offers free two-yearly mammograms to all women over 40 years of age but Dr Sivyer says this one-size model does not fit all.

In the US screening is every 12 months; in the UK it was every three years but now at-risk patients are screened every 12-18 months.

Dr Sivyer and difw work on a personalised, case-by-case basis, offering 2D and Genius 3D mammography and ultrasound imaging to get the best possible picture of what’s going on in your breasts.

The time between imaging is individually determined based on your age and risk-factors.

Let's get breast aware | Genius 3D Mammography | difw imaging | Nikki Parkinson

If you’re a first-time patient, like I was, this extensive imaging process creates for Dr Sivyer a detailed set of personal data for her to track any future changes in my breasts.

Early diagnosis is always her aim.

“Mammography won’t prevent breast cancer but finding cancer when it is small, not only affects survival, but it changes your treatment options,” she says.

“There’s not enough emphasis on this and the impact breast cancer treatment has on women.

“Women really are the crux of families and businesses. I don’t know how you work out the economic impact of delayed diagnosis of breast cancer in that sort of environment but the bottom line is, it is very important.

“It’s no fun rolling through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy … you’re so sick of doctors, hospitals and it just takes over your life.

“Whereas if we can find it at a tiny, tiny, early stage, it will save lives, yes, but it will also change the treatment protocol and give patients back their life faster.”

The process

difw is a specialist private women’s imaging provider, run by women, for women, with two practice sites located in Spring Hill, Brisbane. I attended the difw St Andrew’s site, at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital.

The care factor is evident from the moment I arrive.

There is a relaxed, private waiting area – both at reception – and while I am dressed in my robe between imaging sessions.

Let's get breast aware | Genius 3D Mammography | difw imaging | Nikki Parkinson

Each imaging technician who carries out the mammograms or ultrasound (mammographers and sonographers, respectively) is calm, reassuring and sensitive to the fact that having your breasts squished flat or covered in clear gel is not something you classify under the fun column on a to-do list.

First up is the 2D and 3D Genius mammography exam. The positioning of my breasts and the associated discomfort is similar to that I’d experienced with Breastscreen mammograms.

I’ve got ideal breasts for mammography – 16Ds and droopy once released from a bra. It’s small breasts that get pinched, says Dr Sivyer, and that requires more radiographic skill, something her team is good at.

Next up is the ultrasound exam. The mammographer has already spoken to Dr Sivyer and to the sonographer before starting.

There was a little patch of tissue in my right breast that Dr Sivyer wants close attention paid to in the imaging.

That little patch of tissue also has me back for a second – more magnified – 3D mammogram after the ultrasound.

At every step I am reassured that it all looks good but that Dr Sivyer will assess the all imaging data as a whole.

On this day I am one of the lucky ones but the individual way in which my breasts are *handled* makes me feel more in control of this area of my health.

I’m in the age category where a woman is more prone to hormonal changes in her breasts. And I’ve got them.

I’m also in the age group where if I were to develop breast cancer it would more likely be more aggressive at a smaller size than if I were aged over 55.

“There’s a thing called the last hurrah of the ovaries where we get a slight increase in density and complexity of our breasts when you get up towards your 50s,” Dr Sivyer said.

It’s enough for her to suggest that I return for new imaging in 12-15 months so she has data on that period of time.

The difference

Let's get breast aware | Genius 3D Mammography | difw imaging | Nikki Parkinson

difw invests heavily in state-of-the-art technology and was in 2010 the first site in Australia to introduce Genius 3D mammography from Hologic.

Genius 3D mammography exams are proven to:

  • detect 41% more invasive breast cancers than traditional 2D mammography
  • reduce the need for further testing, including biopsies, by 15-40%
  • increase detection in women with dense breasts (where there is a lot of glandular tissue but not much fatty tissue – common in women under the age of 50)

Genius 3D Mammography by Hologic


 More information

Talk to your GP if you notice any changes in your breasts or feel that you fit into the higher risk category.

If you live in south-east Queensland, ask your GP about a referral to difw at St Andrew’s Hospital, Spring Hill.

Elsewhere in Australia, add your postcode into the Genius 3D mammography site for an imaging provider near you.

For difw standard breast imaging (bilateral 2D mammography and breast ultrasound) the total cost is $590. Medicare will rebate between $92.75 and $164.60 (it depends on what Medicare criteria patients fall into based on family history, current symptoms)

For difw 3D mammogram as part of breast imaging (bilateral 3D mammography and breast ultrasound) the total cost is $630. Medicare will rebate between $92.75 and $164.60.


 

I think one of the things that hold women back from asking the questions and going through with the tests is fear of a bad result.

That fear will always be there but if there is a way to better take control of any aspect of your health, I say embrace it.

Tell me, are you fully AWARE of your breasts? When was your last mammogram? Have you had a 3D mammogram?

Coordinated by The Remarkables Group

Comments 46

  1. Thank you for sharing Nikki! The information you provided for us in this blog I feel has clearly outlined some options for women and hopefully open up discussion from women with their GP’s regarding what is best for them.
    I am a Sonographer and worked with Dr Paula Sivyer many years ago and in my opinion can vouch that she is an expert in her field.
    I appreciate everyone does their “research” and based on what they understand and believe they should absolutely do whatever they feel is right for them.
    However, Dr Sivyer hit the nail on the head when she said something like “one way doesn’t fit all”. For example, some women’s breasts are so dense that a mammogram might not pick up the breast cancer easily so an ultrasound might need to be performed in conjunction with the mammogram to target the areas that were not easily seen. Also some breast cancers can be seen on a mammogram and not on an ultrasound and vice-versa. Breast implants might obscure the view of the breast tissue on mammogram so an ultrasound and/or MRI might be suggested in conjunction with the mammogram. Sound confusing?! Yes it is! So that’s why it’s best to be guided by your medically trained doctor or specialist as to what works best for your breast type, your family history etc.
    For those who say “I’ll opt for ultrasound only as the radiation from the mammogram will cause breast cancer” just know to pick up a breast cancer on ultrasound is reliant on the experience of the Sonographer, how much time they spend scanning your breasts, the quality of the ultrasound equipment being used and the expertise of the radiologist providing the report!
    And yes, it can be perceived that there is a lot of overservicing and some false positives and false negatives come out of this but the point is would you not want to pick up a breast cancer BEFORE you can feel it and it’s spread so you can potentially avoid major surgery and chemotherapy and save your life?!
    Just saying ….

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  2. Because this advertising piece is sponsored by the mammogram industry you should immediately recognize that you’ll get medical propaganda instead of sound science here.

    So you get the typical false mantras and misleading distortions of the actual facts such as mammogram save lives and mammograms increase survival.

    Many women SAY they want to know the facts about mammography but when they are presented with real factual data opposing the official medical narrative, they are quick to dismiss it or completely ignore it.

    Therefore, this is for those few women (and men) who don’t readily throw cognitive obstacles in their own way to chase away factual information and to keep them in the dark about mammography.

    IF…….. women (and men) at large were to examine the mammogram data above and beyond the information of the mammogram business cartel (eg American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Komen), they’d also find that it is almost exclusively the big profiteers of the test (eg radiologists, oncologists, medical trade associations, breast cancer “charities” etc) who promote the mass use of the test and that most pro-mammogram “research” is conducted by people with massive vested interests tied to the mammogram industry. No wonder it isn’t mentioned in this medical advertisment that 3D mammography increases overdiagnosis, that is massive unnecessary harm to countless women.

    Contrary to the official narrative (which is based on medical business-fabricated pro-mammogram “scientific” data), there is marginal, if any, reliable evidence that mammography reduces mortality from breast cancer in a significant way in any age bracket but a lot of solid evidence shows the procedure does provide more serious harm than serious benefit (read: Peter Gotzsche’s ‘Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy’ and Rolf Hefti’s ‘The Mammogram Myth’ – see synopsis at TheMammogramMyth dot com).

    Most women are fooled by the misleading medical mantra that mammograms save lives simply because the public has been fed (“educated” or rather brainwashed) with a very one-sided biased pro-mammogram set of information circulated by the big business of mainstream medicine.

    Because of this one-sided promotion and marketing of the test by the medical business, women have been obstructed from making an “informed choice” about its benefits and risks which have been inaccurately depicted by the medical industry, favoring their business interests.

    Operating and reasoning based on this false body of information is the reason why very few women understand, for example, that a lot of breast cancer survivors are victims of harm instead of receivers of benefit. Therefore, almost all breast cancer “survivors” blindly repeat the official medical hype and nonsense.

    Clearly, the majority of the public still has not realized that modern allopathic medicine is largely a self-serving business instead of an objective selfless service. It’s a sign of effective dissemination of medical propaganda, not that they know the real truth about cancer and mammography.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion here Nancy. It is just that – and opinion – and as with anything health or medical wise, people should make their own minds up and investigate what works for them. I know where I sit personally on this matter and together with my health care professionals I’ll continue to monitor all aspects of my health with their support.

      1. Thank you for the acknowledgment.

        I find it interesting, however, that whatever is dissenting to the official” narrative, is called “an opinion”, implying what the medical establishment claims isn’t an opinion but fact.

        It’s a common form of distraction and damage-control of the reigning ideology, trying to invalidate, marginalize, and trivialize opposing view points which often are the REAL facts. Yet you won’t know the difference unless
        you actually LOOK closely at other perspectives rather than what most people do… comfortably and blindly relying on the “trusted” authorities of corporate medicine, a verified corrupt cartel (read Ghislaine Lanctôt’s “The Medical Mafia”, Lynne McTaggart, “What Doctors Don’t Tell You: The Truth About the
        Dangers of Modern Medicine”, Carolyn Dean, et al, “Death By Medicine” and Peter Gøtzsche’s “Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime”).

        The mammogram industry has long accused the most credible antagonists of mass mammography (eg, Peter Gøtzsche) as spreading “opinions” and being pseudoscientist. Interestingly, you follow their mode of
        operation….

        It almost always comes back to the simple truth: follow the money and you’ll recognize where the opinions are.

        1. With all due respect, you’re not my health professional (and I see a range of health professionals from traditional to alternative – all have so much to offer my particular circumstances and all cost me money!). You don’t know me at all – as I said above it’s up to everyone to make up their own minds and to investigate for themselves.

  3. I’ve never had one but now I’m well into my forties – it’s something I think I want and I need. It’s so important to keep tabs on our body and keep track of our health. Knowledge is power, and if there is something untoward, the earlier you get it the better!

  4. I have just passed 2 years since finishing radiation after my ‘turn 50’ mammogram picked up some calcifications which potentially could have become breast cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ). I had surgery and then radiation and now have annual mammograms and ultrasounds. My lump was so small nothing could be felt and could only be picked up with 3D mammogram. Early detection meant minor surgery and radiation only rather than chemo and it had not reached the stage of spreading!

  5. Thank You for sharing this Nikki 🙂
    There is a history of female cancer in my family, which has also effected me, so I’ve been having mammograms since I was 40. Yes they hurt when you have small boobs but I am alive and kicking and intend to keep getting my yearly checkups, so that I can stay that way!
    Sadly, I have friends who have not been so lucky and lost Mothers and Sisters and partners from cancer; it is everywhere and if affects everyone and regular testing is the only way to win the battle.

  6. My breast cancer was found by accident. A recall to check on a mammogram found that the cause for recall was no longer there, however the ultrasound operator found something else, and that was a tiny cancer. It was invasive, but low grade, and had not spread. The cancer was surgically removed, and because lymph nodes were not affected I did not need chemotherapy. I underwent the prescribed radiotherapy sessions and now, two years later, life is pretty much normal. I do take Tamoxifen and will continue to do so. I am monitored six monthly and check myself regularly. Moral: early detection is EVERYTHING!

  7. Hi Nikki,

    This is a very personal subject so I’m just going to give you my experience and opinion.

    As you may recall, I’ve had breast cancer. Mammograms were yearly requirements for not only the first five years until achieving remission also but for the rest of my life. That was until I decided to quit all my cancer treatment and specialists. I didn’t have quality of life so I changed paths in search for something better suited to me.

    The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has released evidence suggesting that mammography will cause 75 cases of breast cancer for every 15 that it diagnosis. There is a significant amount of research available for those who want to look into this for themselves. I’ve been reading, listening, watching and studying everything I possibly could to help educate myself and find the information and answers I needed for myself since my diagnosis November 2012.

    So I made the educated decision to not radiate my breast/s ever again. Instead if the need ever arises (fingers crossed it won’t) I’ll opt for a routine ultrasound which is a much safer and healthier alternative.

    I know I don’t conform to the majority or what society thinks that I should do. But you know what, I’m okay with that. After all, this is my body and life and I’m the one that has to live with it.

    My two cents worth.

    Lia xxx

    1. Can you please share the source of that data? I can’t find it anywhere on the national Cancerinstitute website and would love to read more about it.

      1. If I had it I most certainly would, sorry Kylie. I’ve been learning about and researching breast cancer since my diagnosis. A lot of information came from google scholar, various specialists that I’ve worked with and some reputable websites. Europe is leading the way at the moment with regards to the negative effects of mammograms. I have the permanent scare tissue in my left lung to prove it.

        Unfortunately my cognitive & short-term memory hadn’t been the same since chemotherapy which makes it difficult to recall things on a regular basis.

        I have been looking, so if I do find it I’ll be sure to come back here and post the link/s.

  8. When I get back from Bali, I’m booking myself in for a comprehensive health check – skin, boobs, everything! It’s much better to act now than wait and have fewer options. x

  9. I think anything that can potentially reduce women and their families having to go through the difficulty of breast cancer is a great thing. I have had 2 close friends find lumps in their breast in between their 2 yrly mammograms, one with a very aggressive type of cancer. However I think women really deserve to have all the facts, this article tells us how great this new machine is, but there is no discussion of the risks. My understanding of this technology is that it delivers 2x the radiation dose of a standard mammogram, directly to your breast. We know that radiation causes cancer. I also think you need to be careful making the statement that all women over 40 should have mammograms. There is a lot of controversy in the medical world about the risk/benefit of pre menopausal women having regular screening mammograms with some researchers going so far as to say they do more harm than good. I hope that doesn’t all sound negative, but I would just encourage women to ask questions and make an informed choice.

  10. Hi Nikki,

    As a medical student this is a great article, as so many people we see have delayed presentations to health services because of “worry” about going to have routine investigations like mammograms, pap smears, etc… Remember as Doctors we see all of these things every day!

    Just a note that I thought clarification wouldn’t hurt, currently without a significant past history, screening with the National Breast Screening Program actually starting at 50, not 40 like you said. Either way though, if concerned mammograms can be had. Just thought I’d like to clarify. 50 is a great age – do your breast and bowel cancer screening…all can be treated!

    Love your work Nikki. xx

    1. In Qld women can be screened from age 40. In the NT it varies, but my GP suggested I get my first mammogram done in my 40s so they have a good base line from which to measure any changes. Which is what I did.

  11. I’m currently lying in a hospital bed after my 6th and final surgery for breastcancer. I’ve had 6 months of chemo and 18 months of targeted therapy and I’m 41 years old. I’m very fortunate that I stuck to my yearly mammograms and ultrasounds (my mum died at 39). Yes it’s scary to wait for the results but early detection is EVERYTHING. My cancer had not spread and from today, I can look forward to a long and happy life with my husband and 3 young children. This is the first I have heard of this new test and it looks wonderful. Thank you for spreading the awareness and education x

  12. Fantastic advice. I’m booked in next week for another ‘pinch’. A few seconds of uncomfortable for another year of reassurance. Easy choice. x

  13. With a sister having had a double mastectomy I get my regular screens and am so grateful for that service. Yes the procedure can be uncomfortable but surgery and chemotherapy would be a lot less comfortable. Thanks Nikki for reminding us all how critical those checks are.

  14. Technology sounds awesome and the Doctors you saw sound brilliant. I completely agree that being proactive is crucial. I haven’t had a mammogram yet (I am 31). I did have a full breast exam at my last Doctors appointment. That said I really need to get my moles checked!

  15. Mammogram yesterday, how timely, I am fully on board with health prevention (my post graduate degree) but postponed my mammogram until after my daughter’s graduation and after my holidays …then a year went by…all because I couldn’t bear to face if I had bad results at ‘important’ times in my life. I I saw through my appt yesterday. Just do it.
    This technology sounds fantastic.

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