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Oc­to­ber is na­tional Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month, and while sur­vival rates are im­prov­ing and de­spite decades of pink fundrais­ing and pro­mo­tional cam­paigns, too many women, par­tic­u­larly young women, still are los­ing their lives to this dis­ease.

The im­pact of a breast can­cer di­ag­no­sis is far-reach­ing and en­dur­ing. The per­son di­ag­nosed is dev­as­tated, fear­ful and alone – life as they know it is dif­fer­ent – and their fo­cus now is on their jour­ney through surgery, chemo­ther­apy and/or ra­di­a­tion ther­apy.

Fam­ily and friends are also af­fected. Breast can­cer pa­tients need emo­tional, phys­i­cal and men­tal sup­port. Sadly, many also need fi­nan­cial sup­port – this can cause sig­nif­i­cant stress in a fam­ily al­ready un­der stress and the dele­te­ri­ous con­se­quences of the breast can­cer di­ag­no­sis deepen.

The good news for lo­cal breast can­cer pa­tients is Blush Can­cer Care. This lo­cally based not-for-profit pro­vides sup­port for pa­tients from the day of di­ag­no­sis all the way through treat­ment and af­ter.

How­ever, the real bright light in the breast can­cer story is early de­tec­tion. Early de­tec­tion is the key to sur­viv­ing breast can­cer and in this month of Oc­to­ber we re­mind men (yes men get breast can­cer too) and women to check their breasts reg­u­larly.

If you no­tice: a new lump or lumpi­ness, es­pe­cially if it’s only in one breast

a change in the size or shape of your breast

a change to the nip­ple, such as crust­ing, ul­cer, red­ness or in­ver­sion

a nip­ple dis­charge that oc­curs with­out squeez­ing

a change in the skin of your breast such as red­ness or dim­pling

an un­usual pain that doesn’t go away Please see your doc­tor.

If you have a fam­ily his­tory (i.e. a first-de­gree fe­male rel­a­tive with breast can­cer) it is wise to have a reg­u­lar breast check, which may in­clude a mam­mo­gram and/or ul­tra­sound and even an MRI. If you are re­ally con­cerned about your fam­ily his­tory (i.e. you have a first-de­gree fe­male rel­a­tive di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer be­fore the age of 40) you might con­sider be­ing tested to see if you carry ei­ther the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mu­ta­tions. These tests do in­cur a sub­stan­tial out-of-pocket fee.

To raise funds in sup­port of breast can­cer ser­vices at St Vin­cent’s, the hos­pi­tal is run­ning a bra dec­o­rat­ing com­pe­ti­tion and en­tries are on dis­play in the hos­pi­tal foyer dur­ing Oc­to­ber.

Funds raised will go to­wards Breast Care Ser­vices at St Vin­cent’s Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal Toowoomba.

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