Breast cancer and prostate cancer: Signs to look out for

Written by: Melanie Wong

COVID-19 has been the primary health concern for the world in 2020, but that doesn’t mean you should be neglecting the other aspects of your health. In July, the ABC found that numbers of breast cancer diagnosis had decreased during lockdown, prompted by fears of going to clinics during the pandemic. As COVID-19 cases rise again in Victoria and NSW, these fears may be returning. It’s important to see a medical professional for routine check-ups, but it is equally as important for you to keep an eye out for signs that your body may not be working at 100% capacity.

Breast cancer and prostate cancer can be caused by any number of things, from age to genetics to lifestyle, but both can be debilitating if untreated. Treatment depends on the stage of cancer but both breast and prostate cancer have high rates of recovery following treatment.

While breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women, it can also occur very rarely in men. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with approximately one in six Australian men diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. They can both seem like terrifying, nebulous diseases, but below are some symptoms to routinely watch for by yourself.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells around the breast lobules or ducts and can spread to different parts of the body. Different people will experience different symptoms of breast cancer but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • New lump or thickening in the breast, specifically if it’s in one breast only
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast/nipple
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Changes in the skin of the breast, such as dimpling or indentation, a rash, a scaly appearance, unusual redness or other colour changes
  • Swelling or discomfort in the armpit
  • Pain in any area of the breast that is unusual and unrelated to menstruation

If you notice any of these changes in your body, it’s essential for you to tell your doctor, who may recommend a test such as a mammogram or ultrasound.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the abnormal cells in the prostate gland grow uncontrolled, leading to the formation of a malignant tumour. Like with breast cancer, prostate cancer can be localised (in the area of the prostate) or can become metastatic, spreading to other parts of the body.

While there are usually no symptoms for early prostate cancer, more advanced prostate cancer can be evident in:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain while urinating
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • A weak stream
  • Pain in the back or pelvis
  • Weak legs or feet

If you suspect that you are at risk of prostate cancer, it’s essential for you to tell your doctor, who may recommend a test such as a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test or a biopsy. If you’d like more information on cancer, the Australian Cancer Council provides information sheets and resources on their website

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