Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women. In 2015, it is estimated that 15,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
It is important to remember that most women survive breast cancer. The latest statistics (2011) show that the 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is more than 89 per cent. Of course, many women live long and healthy lives well beyond this period.
Breast cancer in men is rare. It is estimated that 145 men will be diagnosed in Australia in 2015.
A snapshot of breast cancer in Australia
- Australian women have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of developing breast cancer
- The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age
- The average age of first diagnosis of breast cancer in women is 60 years
- 75 per cent of new cases of breast cancer develop in women over the age of 50
The graph below shows the rate of incidence of breast cancer by age for Australian women in 2010.
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2014. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: Breast cancer. Canberra: AIHW.
How do I know if I have breast cancer?
Many breast cancers are discovered as a result of a mammogram. You may have no symptoms, but at a regular check-up your mammogram shows a lump, or change, in your breast.
Sometimes, your doctor may notice a change in your breast through a breast examination, or you may notice a change yourself or discover a lump during self-examination. If you find a change in your breast that is unusual for you, you should see your GP without delay.
Your doctor will order a series of tests to find out if the change is due to cancer. Nine out of ten breast changes aren't due to cancer, but it's important to see a doctor to be sure.
Why did I get breast cancer?
It is difficult to pinpoint why some women get breast cancer and others don't. There are some risk factors which may increase your risk of developing breast cancer, but having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will definitely develop breast cancer.
Known risk factors include:
- being a woman
- getting older
- inheriting a faulty gene that increases the risk
- having a strong family history of breast cancer
- If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you can order a copy of My Journey Kit, our free information pack for newly diagnosed women.
- To find out more about breast cancer in Australia, download the brief summary of BCNA statistics in Australian Breast Cancer, January 2015.
- Comprehensive statistics about breast cancer can also be found in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s publication, Cancer in Australia: an overview 2014 and Cancer Australia's Report to the Nation: Breast Cancer 2012.
- For information on how to be 'breast aware' and look for any changes in your breasts, visit the Cancer Australia website.