Be breast aware this Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Self-detection saves lives: More than 19,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Photo: Shutterstock
Self-detection saves lives: More than 19,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Photo: Shutterstock

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the McGrath Foundation urges people of all ages to be breast aware.

The McGrath Foundation provides free nurses for breast cancer patients, and October's Pink Up Your Town campaign makes a significant contribution as, "all funds raised go to funding McGrath Breast Care Nurses where they are needed most," McGrath Foundation CEO Holly Masters said.

Catching cancer as early as possible is crucial for any potentially life-saving treatment to start. In addition to the many Pink Up Your Town fundraising activities organised by local volunteer committees, the McGrath Foundation is reminding all people in Australia they are in control of their breast health.

McGrath Foundation encourages them to master a simple three-step approach to self-checking called Look, Feel, Learn. Screening services have been limited in many areas of late.

"It's important to remember many breast cancers are self-detected, meaning women, and men too, can still be in control of their breast health, even in these unpredictable times," Holly said.

Melbourne resident Brega van Vugt, 33, was diagnosed with breast cancer just a week before giving birth to her daughter.

I .. didn't expect to get breast cancer while I was pregnant.

Brega van Vugt, 33

She had noticed a lump about seven weeks earlier but thought it was related to her pregnancy. Her GP and midwife thought the same. But further investigation and an ultrasound revealed the truth.

"Once I was diagnosed, it really struck me how many people asked if 'they' (being the doctors) caught it early, but it wasn't 'them' who caught it; it was me. There's no cancer person that comes knocking on your door asking if you might have cancer, often you find it yourself," Brega said.

"It's so important to be in touch with your own body. We are the world's leading expert on ourselves.

"If you feel like something is off, you need to listen to yourself and your body. Whether that's noticing a lump or just feeling like something isn't quite right, we need to pay attention.

"I'm so aware that often routine mammograms or screening programs are recommended for later in life, so sometimes you aren't even aware that breast cancer could be a possibility.

"A lot of young women may not be checking or even be thinking about it. It can happen at any age, though, or at any life stage. I certainly didn't expect to get breast cancer while I was pregnant."

The three-step approach to self-checking for early signs of breast cancer developed by McGrath Breast Care Nurses is known as Look, Feel, Learn. It says:

Check for the signs with this approach


Look at the shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples in the mirror with your hands by your sides. Raise your arms above your head and have another look.


Feel all of your breasts and nipples, looking for anything that isn't normal for you. Feel from your collarbone to below the bra line and under your armpit too.


Learn what is normal for you. Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, so get to know your normal. See your doctor if you notice any changes.

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