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Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer to affect New Zealand women and the second most common form of cancer to cause death. Seven New Zealand women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. Up to 10% of breast cancers appear to be hereditary but most are diagnosed in women with no family history of the disease and not everyone with the gene will develop cancer.Breast cancer affects women of all ages but the risk increases with age. Māori women are 40 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than non-Māori women and 43 per cent more likely to die of the disease. However, in recent years breast screening rates for Māori women have increased.
Education about self examination, early detection and screening has reduced the incidence of breast cancer in New Zealand. There is no doubt screening has been effective in preventing breast cancer deaths but overdiagnosis can occur and women should be fully informed of the benefits and risks of participating in the breast screening programme. Recent research has questioned the need for breast screening particularly in the under fifties.All women over the age of 20 should undertake a breast self examination every month. The best time to do a breast self exam is one week after your period has finished as breasts are less likely to be lumpy due to hormonal changes. During breastfeeding a good time to check your breasts is after feeding your baby. After menopause choose a regular day to examine your breasts each month. Regular examination of your breasts will help you become familiar with how they normally look and feel. Any changes to your breasts will then be more evident. If you find any changes consult a health professional. Your GP can also perform a breast examination during your regular health check.
New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation »Breast Cancer Network »New Zealand Health Information Service (NZHIS) »Breast Cancer Support Inc. (BCS) »Cancer Society of New Zealand – Information Service »Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition »WHIS pamphlet: Mammography booklet »