Frances Perry House
Part of Ramsay Health Care

Breast Health

Get information about breast health, common breast conditions and treatments, and how to get your breasts checked.

Breast Health

Throughout our lives, our breasts go through many changes. They can change in shape and size as our hormones change, such as through puberty and pregnancy, and they can change in function, such as when we use them for breastfeeding.

Breasts are such a critical part of our bodies. It is important to be aware of your breast health and ensure that common conditions don’t worsen before seeing a doctor.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common breast conditions, affecting 1 in 9 women.

Breast cancer, a disease which occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control, can occur in the breast and surrounding tissue. Some people have no symptoms, but a lump is found on routine examination, but any new breast pain, changes to breast skin texture or appearance, nipple discharge or bleeding should be reported to your GP.

Your chances of getting breast cancer increases with age so we recommend you conduct regular breast checks especially after age 50.

Learn more about women’s cancers.

Other Common Breast Conditions

Whilst breast cancer is one of the most common conditions, there are other concerns that can affect breasts as well. Other conditions can include:

  • Cysts, which are pockets of fluid trapped in the breast tissue. These are most common in women aged 35-50. Many cysts are harmless and disappear on their own, but you should always see your doctor if you feel any lumps or unusual textures in your breast to make sure it is not cancer.
  • Fibroadenomas, which are also lumps. These are made from tissue or glands and can be painful or painless. As with cysts, always get any lump checked by your doctor immediately.
  • Nipple changes, including dryness, discharge, or cracked nipples. There can be a number of reasons nipple issues occur, from thrush to breastfeeding issues, but if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding it may be more of a cause for concern, such as an infection. See your doctor if you feel any pain or discomfort or if you have any concerns.

Getting your Breasts Checked

Many symptoms of the breasts are normal, hormonal changes associated with our menstrual cycle. Soreness, tenderness and enlargement of the breasts are common before your period is due.

But if you notice differences in your breasts, or soreness, sharp pain or other discomfort outside your usual hormonal changes, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.

According to BreastScreen Australia, some signs or symptoms to look out for include:

  • A change in the size or shape of your breasts
  • A change to the nipple such as crusting or redness
  • A nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
  • A new lump or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast
  • A change in the skin such as puckering or dimpling
  • Your nipple becoming inverted (or pulled in)
  • An unusual pain in the breast that does not go away

While regular self-examinations are a good way to check for any irregularities (such as lumps or changes in breast appearance or texture), they do not replace medical examinations.

Check with your GP

You can see your GP for a breast examination whether you have found something yourself or not. Many doctors will also conduct a breast check when doing a mole map or cervical screen. Your doctor should always ask your permission before examining your breasts.

Your doctor may also arrange for you to get a mammogram and / or ultrasound of your breast.  If anything of concern is found, your doctor may discuss management options with you and refer you to a breast surgeon or oncologist if required.

BreastScreen Australia

BreastScreen Australia is a national breast cancer screening program which conducts mammograms to find breast cancers early, before they can be seen or felt. Women aged 50 to 74 are sent an invitation to participate in the program. If you haven't received your invitation, contact BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50 to check if your details are correct.

Breast Surgery

If surgery is required, there are a range of options your specialist doctor may recommend. These will be designed to suit your specific needs and circumstances and can include:

Diagnostic Procedures

Open surgical diagnostic excisional biopsy is a surgery to remove an abnormality from the breast without removing any of the normal tissue surrounding it.

Microdochectomy/total duct excision is where one or all of the milk ducts are removed. Milk ducts might need to be removed if they are causing discoloured or bloodied discharge.

Therapeutic Procedures

Breast-conserving cancer surgery is a surgery where only the cancerous tissue and a small amount of healthy tissue are removed, and as much of the breast as possible is saved. This is an option for smaller cancerous growths where there is a lot of healthy tissue left.

Oncoplastic breast cancer surgery, where the cancer is removed and surgery techniques are used to reconstruct the area that has been affected.

Skin-sparing and subcutaneous mastectomy (nipple-sparing mastectomy) with immediate reconstruction is a surgery where the breast, nipple and areolar complex are removed, while the skin is conserved. The skin is then used for a reconstruction in the same procedure.

Prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery where both the breasts are removed because the person is at a very high risk of developing breast cancer.

Prophylactic mastectomy (risk-reducing mastectomy) with immediate reconstruction is a surgery where all the breast tissue is removed and then a reconstruction is done in the same procedure. Removing all breast tissue is usually when a patient has a strong family history of breast cancer and wants to reduce their future risk of breast cancer.

Simple mastectomy is where the breast is removed completely.

Axillary Procedures
Axillary lymph node dissection involves the removal of a tumour, and a procedure to the lymph glands under the arm (axillary lymph nodes). These nodes are the most likely place that breast cancer cells might travel, and this procedure removes those cells as well.

Sentinel node biopsy for breast cancer, is a surgical procedure used to determine whether cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor into your lymphatic system. If the surgery detects cancer in your lymph nodes, your surgeon might recommend further removal.

Other Cancer Treatments

If you have breast cancer, your doctor may also recommend other cancer treatments such as endocrine therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy following discussion at a multidisciplinary meeting.

Frances Perry House has strong links with the radiology service at The Royal Women’s Hospital and can support you to access this service if required. 

All treatment options should be thoroughly and respectfully explained to you as you decide how to proceed.

Preventative Procedures

Many of the above procedures may be used as a preventative option. This may apply to you if you are a genetic mutation carrier, have a high risk of breast cancer in your family or are diagnosed with contralateral breast cancer (a secondary tumor on your previously unimpacted breast).

Specialist Care at Frances Perry House

Frances Perry House is home to a range of experienced and highly reputable surgeons with experience in many women's health issues including breast health and treatment options. In addition, breast care nurses are available to offer specialist support for those managing breast health conditions.

To book a consultation with a Breast Surgeon at Frances Perry house, please request a referral from your GP. You can choose a specialist using our specialist search tool.