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The Myths And Truths About Breast Cancer, Are You At Risk?

Image: McGrath Foundation

The majority of Australian women are unable to correctly identify all the known risk factors for breast cancer, new research has found.

A survey of more than 1000 Australian women aged 16 years and older showed that the majority - 73 per cent - believe they are very breast aware, yet only 10 per cent correctly identified all six of the key risk factors for breast cancer.

According to the first ever annual McGrath Breast Health Index, 33 per cent of the women questioned wrongly believed that bumping or bruising the breast could cause breast cancer, while 20 per cent also believed sleeping in a bra increased their chances of breast cancer.

"These are all myths that many years ago we knew no longer had any impact or had implications on breast cancer but yet from a public sentiment standpoint they don't know that information," McGrath Foundation chief executive Petra Buchanan said.

It is essential women are armed with the right information so they become an expert on their own breasts or "breastperts", she says.

But truly knowing your breasts is more than just checking them once a month.

"Being breast aware is about knowing how your breasts look and feel, and knowing what is 'normal' for you," said Ms Buchanan. At that time of the month they may be a bit bigger, a bit fuller or a bit lumpier.

The more knowledgeable women are the better able they are to identify changes in their breasts that could be an early sign of breast cancer, Ms Buchanan said.

Improving breast awareness among young people was always a big part of the vision of Jane McGrath - who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31.

"At the time she felt that the language used and the fact that she was not in the normal demographic for breast cancer, which is 60 and onward, meant that none of the material, the information was tailored to who she was in her life," said Ms Buchanan.

She says this index gives them hope of ensuring McGrath's vision is fulfilled because "early prevention can make a huge difference" in saving lives.

The Six Correct Risk Factors for Breast Cancer (Source: McGrath Foundation)
1. Strong family history
2. Being a woman
3. Being a smoker
4. Growing older
5. Drinking alcohol
6. Starting menstruation earlier/starting menopause later

For more information, visit www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au

AAP

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