On this page we will attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about breast cancer.
If you can’t find the answer to your question here, you need more information, or you want to meet someone
face to face – we’re always ready to talk and listen at INP Medical Clinic! Remember,
early detection is your best protection with breast cancer.
Breast Cancer – what are my chances?
In New Zealand about one woman in ten will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age.
Three quarters of the women who get breast cancer are over 50 years of age. Most women who
develop breast cancer have no close relatives with the disease.
What can I do?
One way you can help find breast cancer early on is getting to know what your breasts are like normally.
This is more important after the age of 40. From time to time, when washing or dressing,
feel your breasts and look at them in the mirror. Get to know how your breasts change at different times of
the month and also as you grow older. If you do feel something in one breast which seems different than usual,
check your other breast. If you can feel the same thing in both breasts it is probably normal. If you aren’t sure,
contact us or your doctor.
What am I looking for?
As mentioned before the most common sign of breast cancer is usually a lump, it will be at least a centimetre or two across.
Most often the lump is painless. The problem here is many women have lumpy breasts, so it is important for you to know
what your breasts usually feel like and be able to recognise any changes. What you are looking for is a lump which has just
appeared or stands out from the rest.
Other signs can includ dimpling in the skin of the breast, any change in one nipple, a turned-in nipple, scaly skin around the nipple,
and a discharge which persists without squeezing.
Where to from here?
We have several ways of checking a breast lump or change. You will probably be referred to a specialist where
you may have a mammogram (breast x-ray), but on its own this is not enough to show if the lump is cancer or not.
At some stage the lump, or a sample of it, will be removed and tested.
What if it is cancer?
Most women with breast cancer have surgery, but these days often only part of the breast will be removed.
Treatment may also include radiation, chemotherapy (drugs) and hormones. Research shows that good ongoing support
is also important for recovery. Nearly all women whose cancers were discovered when small, and have not spread,
are alive and well 10 to 20 years after treatment.
What is Breastscreen Aotearoa?
A free national breast x-ray (mammogram) service that helps check for early breast cancer.
This programme is offered to all women in New Zealand aged 45 to 69 years who have NO symptoms.
It aims to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer.