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

Breast Cancer Network Australia

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Australian Breast Cancer Research


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Bowel cancer: what you need to know

Bowel cancer: what you need to knowAs bowel cancer awareness month draws to an end, it’s still not too late to take action against this disease, the second biggest cancer killer in Australia, after lung cancer.

Bowel cancer (also known as colon or colorectal cancer) is estimated to kill just over 4,000 Australians this year, with around 17,520 new cases being diagnosed this year alone. [i]


What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a malignant growth that develops most commonly in the lining of the colon (large bowel) or rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from tiny growths called polyps inside the colon or rectum. These polyps look like small spots on the bowel lining and are quite common. While not all polyps become cancerous, the risk of bowel cancer is reduced if polyps are removed.

Bowel cancer can develop with few, or any, warning symptoms. However, many early symptoms can include:

  • Changes in bowel habits including diarrhea, constipation or feeling you haven’t completely emptied your bowel
  • Thin bowel movements
  • Blood or mucus in the faeces
  • Abdominal bloating or cramping
  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Unexplained anaemia.

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms may not be present, particularly in the early stages of cancer. They may also be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses or conditions, or may not even be noticed at all.

That’s why regular bowel screening is so important.


The importance of bowel screening

Bowel cancer is easy to detect and, if treated early, 93 per cent of all cases can be treated successfully.[ii]

Like any screening tool, bowel screening cannot prevent cancer. However, proper screening can save lives. It can detect cancer in its early stages when it is highly curable, as well as detecting growths, or polyps that could become pre-cancer.

Current guidelines recommend all Australians aged 50 to 74 undergo regular screening using a non-invasive test that looks for blood in the faeces. This faecal occult blood test (FOBT) can be done in the privacy of your own home.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program currently provides the test free for people aged 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74. More aged groups will be added in coming years and by 2020, the test will be available free (once every two years) to all Australians aged 50 to 74.

If there is a family history of bowel cancer, you should begin screening at 40 years of age. Speak to your doctor about the right screening tools for you.


What about colonoscopies?

A colonoscopy is the best test to diagnose bowel cancer as it allows the doctor to view the rectum and the entire colon. Air is pumped into the colon through a flexible tube that is inserted into the anus. A camera on the end of the tube allows your doctor to look for abnormal tissue that is removed for further examination. You are sedated during this procedure.

The doctor can perform a biopsy and remove polyps or other abnormal tissue during the test, if necessary. Colonoscopies may be given as a follow-up to abnormal FOBT results, or if there is a history of bowel cancer in the family.


Can you prevent bowel cancer?

It’s not possible to prevent all cases of bowel cancer, and there is no known cause of bowel cancer. However, there are some risk factors that increase your risk, which include:

  • Inherited genetic risk and family history
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • High consumption of red meat, particularly processed meats
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Consuming large amounts of alcohol
  • Smoking

The best way to reduce your risk is to not smoke, eat a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and maintain a healthy weight.

Most of us don’t like discussing our bowels and their functions, but healthy bowels are important for our overall health. If you are concerned about your risk for bowel cancer, or want to know more about screening, make an appointment to speak to your doctor.

Further information

Bowel Cancer Australia

Cancer Council Australia


[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Bowel cancer (colorectal cancer),

[ii] Cancer Council Australia, Bowel Cancer,

Butt out and save thousands

Butt out and save thousandsWe all know that smoking is bad for your health. But have you ever considered how much harm smoking does to your financial position?

As of 1 September 2015, the price of cigarettes in Australia will increase by 12.5 per cent. For someone who smokes a pack a day, they will need to fork out around $7,000 a year to keep their habit going.

Why you should quit

Tobacco smoke contains harmful substances and smoking causes many fatal diseases. In fact, it is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.

Smoking causes a range of illnesses and diseases, including at least 10 different cancers.

It also contributes to:

  • Cardio-cerebral vascular disease: Heart diseases, stroke, atherosclerosis, abdominal aortic aneurysm, peripheral vascular disease.
  • Respiratory diseases: Pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, respiratory symptoms such as coughing and phlegm production.
  • Pregnancy-related diseases: Foetal growth retardation, premature delivery, miscarriage and other complications during pregnancy.
  • Other disorders: Impotence, infertility, osteoporosis, peptic ulcer, ageing of the skin and periodontitis.

Second-hand smoke also impacts those around you and can cause other people to become sick.

There’s no getting around that quitting smoking is the best thing anyone can do for their health.

Why are cigarettes going up?

The price increase on tobacco is a strategy by the Federal Government to reduce smoking rates in Australia. According to figures released by the Cancer Institute of NSW, rising costs of cigarettes led three-quarters of quitters to their decision to quit.

Over one third of current smokers support the price increase, as a way to discourage young people to take up smoking and to encourage current smokers to quit.

Quitting smoking is extremely difficult for most people, but something well worth the effort.

Benefits of quitting

According to QuitNow [i], typical benefits of quitting are:

  • After 12 almost all of the nicotine is out of your system.
  • After 24 hours the level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped dramatically. You now have more oxygen in your bloodstream.
  • After 5 days most nicotine by-products have gone.
  • Within days your sense of taste and smell improves.
  • Within a month your blood pressure returns to its normal level and your immune system begins to show signs of recovery.
  • Within 2 months your lungs will no longer be producing extra phlegm caused by smoking.
  • After 12 months your increased risk of dying from heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.
  • Stopping smoking reduces the incidence and progression of lung disease including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • After 10 years of stopping your risk of lung cancer is less than half that of a continuing smoker and continues to decline (provided the disease is not already present).
  • After 15 years your risk of heart attack and stroke is almost the same as that of a person who has never smoked.

Think about your wallet

With the increased price of cigarettes, focusing on the amount you can save by kicking cigarettes may be an extra incentive.

Save thousands when you butt outBased on pack-per-day habit, you can save:

$7,000 — after the first year = overseas holiday

$21,000 — after 3 years = a new car

$35,000 — after 5 years = a deposit for a house.

So contact the Quitline today on 137848 and take control of your health and your finances.

Further information:


[i] Quit Now, Benefits of Quitting, last updated30 May 2012; accessed 31 August 2015,

How to reduce your risk of cancer

World Cancer DayDid you know that cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia?

According to Cancer Council Australia, more than 43,000 people die from cancer each year — which is around 3 in 10 deaths.

The good news however, is that the survival rate for many common cancers has increased by 30 per cent in the past 20 years with 66 per cent of all people diagnosed with cancer surviving five years after diagnosis.

Statistics show that in Australia the most common cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, colorectal (bowel), breast, melanoma and lung cancer. These five cancers account for over 60 per cent of all diagnosed cancers in Australia.

This Wednesday, 4th February marks World Cancer Day with the theme “Not beyond us”. This global day aims to save millions of lives around the world by raising awareness and education about cancer and encouraging governments and individuals to take up the fight against this disease.

According to the Union for International Cancer Control , 8.2 million people worldwide die from cancer each year. Of these, 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years).

While not all cancers are preventable, Cancer Council Australia estimates that one third of all cancers are caused by preventable risk factors. To reduce your risk of cancer, it recommends that you follow these steps:

  • Quit smoking — quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. It has been linked to
  • Eat for health — Poor eating habits increase your risk of cancer. For good health, you should eat plenty of fruits, veggies and legumes, wholegrains, lean meat and poultry, foods low in salt and low in fat.
  • Maintain a healthy weight — Research shows that being overweight, physically inactive and not eating well cause nearly one third of all cancers. If you carry too much weight, make an effort to get it under control.
  • Be SunSmart — Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. The good news is that it is largely preventable by slipping on protective clothing, slopping on 50+ SPF sunscreen, slapping on a wide-brimmed hat, seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses.
  • Limit alcohol — Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the bowel, breast, mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus and liver. The more you drink the higher your risk, so limit your intake.
  • Move your body — Being active every day lowers your risk of developing cancer.
  • Get checked — Early detection of cancer equates to more successful treatment, so visit your doctor regularly and ask which screening tests are relevant for you.

So don’t wait to become a statistic. Take action today to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

If you would like to make a donation to help the fight against cancer, you can donate to:
The Union for International Cancer Control
Cancer Council of Australia

Save your skin

Write Way to HealthAustralia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with the incidence of skin cancers being two to three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.

According to Cancer Council Australia, skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers each year, with two thirds of Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 years of age.

Almost 2100 Australians died from skin cancer in 2011.

Despite these statistics, the positive news is that skin cancer is largely preventable and can be treated successfully, if diagnosed early.

This week (16 – 22 November 2014) marks Skin Cancer Action Week, designed to encourage Australians to take action against skin cancer by heeding the message Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

To prevent skin cancer, all Australians are advised to:

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing
  • Slop on SPF50+ broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses (ensure they meet the Australian standard).

Types of skin cancer

There are three types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma — This is the most common form of skin cancer but the least dangerous. They usually don’t spread to other parts of the body.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma — These usually appear on areas of the skin exposed to sunlight. They can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Melanoma — This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is the most common cancer in Australia’s 15 to 44 year olds. It is usually curable if it is detected early. However, it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Signs and symptoms

The earlier you seek treatment for skin cancer, the higher the success rate, so see your health care professional if you notice any of the following:

  • A spot that looks different from others around it
  • A section of skin that appears red, scaly or thickened.
  • A new or unusual looking mole, freckle or sore
  • A spot, mole or freckle that has changed in colour, shape or size, or has become itchy or bleeds
  • The spot that has borders which are not smooth and regular but uneven or notched

Remember, protecting your skin is the best way to prevent skin cancer, so this summer make sure you stay SunSmart.

Further information:

Cancer Council Australia

Skin Cancer Action Week

Australasian College of Dermatologists

Help beat cancer

Daffodil DayMost of us know someone who has been touched by cancer. Cancer can affect anyone, and can be devastating for them and their loved ones.

On Friday, 22 August, you have an opportunity to make a difference to the many lives affected by cancer, by supporting Daffodil Day.

The daffodil is the symbol of hope for cancer sufferers due to its ability to push through the frozen earth to become one of the first flowers of spring. It signifies rebirth, new beginnings, vitality and growth.

According to the Cancer Council:

  • An estimated 128,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020.
  • The most common cancers in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, colorectal (bowel), breast, melanoma and lung cancer.
  • 1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.
  • Cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia — more than 43,200 have died from cancer in 2011. Cancer accounted for 3 in 10 deaths in Australia.
  • Each day in Australia, more than 115 people will die of the disease.
  • More than 60% of cancer patients will survive more than five years after diagnosis.
  • The survival rate for many common cancers has increased by 30 per cent in the past two decades.

As a community, we can help make a positive difference to the statistics above.

Research into cancer is continually discovering new and better treatments. Cancer prevention campaigns are helping raise awareness, and early detection is improving the survival rates.

By buying Daffodil Day merchandise, or simply a lovely bunch of daffodils from the Daffodil Day volunteers, you too can play a part in the fight against cancer.

To find out how you can support this worthy cause, visit

Let’s join the fight to beat cancer.

Further information

Daffodil Day

Cancer Council