The latest in breast cancer research

Breast cancer research

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women after lung cancer. It is estimated that around 16,084 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year. This includes 15,934 women and 150 males.

Sadly, around 3,073 Australians (27 men and 3,046 women) will lose their life to breast cancer in 2016.

Over the course of their life, Australian women have a 1 in 8 risk of developing breast cancer.

 

What is breast cancer?

Put simply, breast cancer is predominantly a female disease which begins as a tumour in the cells of the breast. Tumours occur when cells grow abnormally and multiply. Over time, these develop into cancerous growths which can sometimes spread (metastasise) to other areas of the body. Thankfully, cancer that is contained within the breast is largely treatable and survival rates in these circumstances are high.

However, once the cancer has spread to another part of the body, treatments aren’t usually as effective and survival rate drops considerably.

The only way to increase survival rates and prevent breast cancer is through research. As we better understand how tumours develop, grow and spread, we are better able to prevent and treat the disease.

 

What are researchers investigating?

Researchers around the world are currently working to discover more about breast cancer. Research covers a range of different areas including:

  • causes of breast cancer
  • new ways to prevent breast cancer
  • how to determine the best treatment options for each patient
  • evaluating the need for surgery
  • testing shorter radiation schedules
  • trialing new drug therapies and combinations of therapies
  • determining what early stage cancers may not need chemotherapy
  • ways to give hormonal therapy
  • new reconstructive surgery techniques and approaches
  • reducing symptoms and side effects of current breast cancer treatments
  • how to improve patient quality of life while living with, and undergoing treatment for the disease.

 

Australian research

In Australia, a number of organisations raise funds for and support research into breast cancer. Among these are the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), Australian Breast Cancer Research (ABCR), and the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA).

Current research projects being funded by the NBCF include:

  • Identifying factors that make some cancers aggressive
  • Preventing breast cancer progression
  • Understanding the earliest stages of breast cancer
  • The link between obesity and breast cancer
  • Enhancing breast cancer screening
  • Identifying when cancer spreads to the brain
  • Reducing tumour growth through exercise
  • Preventing cancer spreading to the bones
  • Investigating new treatments with less side effects.

 

Researchers supported by ABCR are currently investigating:

  • The role our immune cells play in the risk of developing breast cancer
  • What causes high mammographic density (MD), which is a risk factor for breast cancer
  • The link between genetics and breast cancer
  • How to improve hormonal breast cancer treatments
  • How to best treat patients aged 65+.

 

How can you help?

 While most of us aren’t qualified to undertake research into the causes, prevention and treatment of breast cancer, we can all play our part and be involved. The most important way is to support ongoing research by donating.

There are many ways you can contribute, including via various fundraising activities, a one-off donation, monthly giving, a memorial gift, or through your will. The best way to determine which is the right option for you is to contact the organsations directly.

Won’t you join the fight against breast cancer?

 

 

Further information

Cancer Australia https://canceraustralia.gov.au

Breast Cancer Network Australia https://www.bcna.org.au/

National Breast Cancer Foundation http://nbcf.org.au/

Australian Breast Cancer Research http://www.abcr.com.au/

 

The Write Way to Health blog is part of the portfolio of Write to the Point Communications.

 Melbourne health wrtier & bloger, copywriter & editor, researcher extraordinaire
Delivering high-quality health writing with exceptional customer service

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Generic Medicines: are they safe?

Are generic medicines safe?You’ve probably been to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled only to have a conversation that goes something like this:

Pharmacist: “Would you like a cheaper brand if it’s available?”

You: “Umm. What? A cheaper brand? Oh, um, I don’t know. Ah no, I’ll have the brand on the script, thanks.”

But what if that cheaper brand could do the same thing as the brand on the script, at a fraction of the price? Would you say ‘yes’ then?

 

Generic medicines — a bit like generic supermarket products

Just like supermarkets products have their generic equivalent, some medicines do as well. To understand why, you need to understand how medicines are developed.

After a pharmaceutical company develops a medicine, it takes out a patent on the product. This ensures that the company has the exclusive right to manufacture and sell that drug, meaning there is no competition from other pharmaceutical companies.

However, patents don’t last forever. When they expire, other drug companies are allowed to manufacture their own equivalent of the original medicine, in different packaging, providing these drugs are bioequivalent — that is, the medicine contains the same active ingredients. These medicines also meets the same government standards as the original medicine, for safety and efficiency. They are known as generic medicines.

 

Are generics the same as the original?

No. While generic medicines contain the same active ingredients as the original medication, and therefore have the same effect, some of the inactive substances may be different. For example:

  • binders and fillers (that hold tablets together)
  • flavourings
  • colourings
  • preservatives.

Are generic medicines safe?Most people will be able to take generic medications with no problems. However, some people may be allergic or intolerant to an ingredient the original branded medicine doesn’t contain. For example, some people may be lactose or gluten intolerant, or be allergic to some preservatives or colourings. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you.

It’s also worth noting that the potential side effects of the generic medication will be similar to the original one.

 

Should I take generics?

Overall, generic medicines are safe, efficient and can often save you money, but before taking them, ask your pharmacist the following five questions:

  1. Is it okay for me to choose a different brand of my medicine?
  2. What are the benefits and disadvantages for me if I use a different brand?
  3. Is there a difference in cost?
  4. Which of my usual medicines does this replace?
  5. What is the active ingredient in my medicine?

There are some generic medicines (such as warfarin), that may contain the same active ingredient but not be bioequivalent. In this case, stick with your usual brand. Your pharmacist should supply you with the brand that has been prescribed. Of course, if your doctor advises you to stick with one brand, then you should do so.

Most of the time, generic medicines are close enough to the original brand to be safe and effective. However, you have the final say in whether you take a generic substitute or the original medication.

For further information visit http://www.nps.org.au/topics/how-to-be-medicinewise/buying-medicines/generic-medicine-brands

 

The Write Way to Health blog is part of the portfolio of Write to the Point Communications.

 Melbourne health wrtier & bloger, copywriter & editor, researcher extraordinaire
Delivering high-quality health writing with exceptional customer service