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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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)
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