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
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Health checks that may save a woman’s life

female doctorLet’s face it, we all live busy lives. Sometimes a visit to your doctor for a check-up seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially when you are juggling so many other things.

However, a regular check-up could just save your life.

Here are some of the most common screening tests that can make a difference to women’s health.

Breast screening

Early detection of breast cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. Breast cancer can be detected by a clinical breast examination and mammography screening.

Women in Australia with no breast symptoms, aged between 50 and 69 are eligible to participate in BreastScreen Australia’s free breast cancer screening program. Every two years, women in this age group are recalled to have a screening mammogram. Women aged 40-49 are also welcome to attend, but they do not receive a two-yearly reminder.

Talk to your health practitioner about which method of screening is best for you.

Cervical screening

Regular Pap smears help protect against cervical cancer. This type of cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers, as long as it’s detected early, so it’s important to have them, as unpleasant as they are. It is recommended that women over 18 who have ever had sex should have a Pap smear every two years. Regular cervical screening can prevent the most common form of cervical cancer in 90 per cent of cases.

Cholesterol and blood pressure

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer for Australian women? Cholesterol and blood pressure levels are important risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If you are over the age of 40, you should have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Talk to your general practitioner how often you need to be tested, but the general recommendation is once a year.

Bone density testing

Osteoporosis is characterised by a thinning of the bones causing them to fracture or break easily. While both men and women are at risk of developing the disease, women are more at risk after reaching menopause. This is because of lower levels of oestrogen. Bone density testing can identify osteoporosis.

Before heading off for a bone density test, your doctor will review any risk factors you may have for osteoporosis, and any other diseases or medications that may impact negatively upon the health of your bones.

Next time you visit your doctor, make sure you discuss your bone health.

Bowel screening (Colorectal cancer screening)

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers for Australians over 50 years of age. Around 80 Australians die of the disease each week. A faecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects tiny amounts of blood (often released from cancers or pre-cancers) in the stool.

Women with no family history of the disease should be screened every two years, after the age of 50. If there is a family history of bowel cancer, seek the advice of your general practitioner.

So don’t put off that check-up any longer. Invest the time in looking after your health. You are worth it.

Further information:

BreastScreen Australia Program

National Cervical Screening Program

Osteoporosis Australia

The Heart Foundation

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program