'Look, feel, learn': breast check vital

Get checked: McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse Gail Dwyer, who works at the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, wants all men and women to get used to checking their breasts every month. Her position is funded by the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur and a private philanthropist. Picture: Amanda Margo Photography

Get checked: McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse Gail Dwyer, who works at the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, wants all men and women to get used to checking their breasts every month. Her position is funded by the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur and a private philanthropist. Picture: Amanda Margo Photography

Early detection is vital to increase the chances of surviving breast cancer.

That's the message from McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse Gail Dwyer.

Ms Dwyer, who is the first McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse at the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, wants everyone - women and men - to add self-checking to their monthly health routines.

Her message comes on the back of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) and the release of alarming statistics from the Cancer Australia. The statistics revealed imaging procedures for the detection of breast cancers fell by 37 per cent between March and April this year on the back of the pandemic, and breast biopsies fell by a quarter nationally in the same period.

Ms Dwyer, who has spent 20 years working as a registered nurse in Campbelltown, said it was vitally important that locals didn't delay seeking treatment for any abnormalities they might find in their breasts.

"Do monthly checks - mark it on the calendar, put it in your mobile phone," she said. "Get familiar with your own body. In a lot of cases, that lump or bump will be nothing, but you still need to get it checked by a medical professional. You can't afford to ignore it. Do those regular breast checks, seek help from a doctor. It's very important.

"At McGrath we have our message: 'look, feel, learn'. Know the shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples, both when your hands are by your side and when they're raised above your head. Get used to that, so you can recognise anything that isn't normal."

Ms Dwyer said the message was for women and men - as man can also develop breast cancer - and should be considered as soon puberty is reached.

She said administering self-checks of your breasts should be a normal part of the health routine, and something that should ideally be started in high school.

Ms Dwyer said the support of McGrath Breast Care nurses like herself made a big difference in the breast cancer recovery process.

"Patients put in contact with Breast Care nurses in the first seven days after their diagnosis are shown to have better experiences and more positive outcomes," she said.

"You don't have to wait for a referral - we can be accessed at any time via the McGrath website."

Ms Dwyer's role as a Metastatic Breast Care Nurse is to help patients whose cancer has spread beyond their breasts to other parts of their body.

She helps them navigate the system and becomes a direct point of call throughout their cancer journey.

This story 'Look, feel, learn': breast check vital first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.