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.

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Tradies urged to take care

Construction workers positioning cement formwork framesAugust signals the annual Tradies National Health Month. It’s an opportunity to draw attention to the health of all of Australia’s tradies, who continue to have the poorest health and safety conditions of all workers across all sectors.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) leads Tradies National Health Month to educate tradies to keep a check on their safety, health and well being.

 

Tradies are most at risk

According to Safe Work Australia, tradies have among the highest serious injury and disease compensation claims in Australia. Labourers, technicians, and machinery operators and drivers are among the top four occupations when it comes to number of serious injury claims.

The majority of serious claims are from injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, including traumatic joint, ligament, muscle and tendon injuries. While backs still present the highest proportion of body stress injury claims, other body parts affected include upper limbs, lower legs, hips, the abdomen and the pelvic region.

Research also shows tradespersons, labourers and workers across the agricultural and construction industries have high risks of chronic health conditions.

 

Greater awareness needed

It is vital tradies become more aware and active in improving their health and safety. Early injury intervention and treatment through evidence-based care, including physiotherapy, must be part of the solution to prolong working careers, reduce time away from work and improve general well being.

Employers, peak bodies and government are encouraged to acknowledge the significant role they play in ensuring their workers are fit-for-work, and offer appropriate support when it comes to preventative health measures

 

Tips for preventing injury

The APA offer the following tips to prevent tradies injuring themselves at work:

  • ensure tasks are risk assessed regularly to reduce the strain
  • check the equipment you are using is adequate, easily handled and fit for purpose
  • use good posture and technique when handling objects eg: keep your chest up where possible
  • keep your core strong by exercising regularly
  • keep your flexibility by doing 5–10 minutes of stretching every morning
  • maintain quality sleep and nutrition to ensure you have the energy to remain well, alert and safe throughout the day.

For further information, or to find out how you can be involved, visit Tradies National Health Month visit www.tradieshealth.com.au

 

 

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

References:

[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Bowel cancer (colorectal cancer), http://www.aihw.gov.au/cancer/bowel/

[ii] Cancer Council Australia, Bowel Cancer, http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/bowel-cancer/

Endometriosis — what you need to know

illustration of woman and yellow ribbon for EndometriosisDuring March, you may see many women wearing yellow. March into Yellow is a movement aimed at raising awareness of and starting a conversation about a condition that affects between five to ten per cent of menstruating women around Australia — endometriosis.

 

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis (pronounced en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is disorder where tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. This endometrial tissue grows within the pelvic region, often affecting the ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining the pelvis.

This tissue acts just like the tissue within the uterus — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because there is no way for this tissue to leave the body, it becomes trapped, often causing pain. Sometimes surrounding tissue can become irritated and may develop scar tissue and adhesions, which bind organs together.

Endometriosis can be extremely painful and may cause infertility. Unfortunately, the exact cause is unknown.

 

What are the symptoms

The symptoms of endometriosis can vary, depending upon where endometrial tissue is located. Typical symptoms may include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pelvic and abdominal pain, not related to menstruation
  • Heavy periods, clotting, long periods, irregular periods or premenstrual spotting
  • Ovulation pain
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain in the lower back, thigh or leg
  • Bowel problems including painful bowel motions, diarrhoea, constipation or bleeding from the bowel
  • Trouble getting pregnant.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, speak to your doctor. You may not have endometriosis, but it is worth investigating, particularly if the quality of your life is suffering.

 

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

Unfortunately, an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis can take some time, with the average length of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis being seven years. This is because some women may feel that their symptoms are a normal part of their menstrual cycle. Sometimes doctors may initially attribute symptoms to other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, cystitis or stomach ulcers.

Diagnosis is made via a laparoscopy — a surgical procedure involving inserting a long, thin telescope (laparoscope) into the abdomen through a cut near the navel. Gas is pumped into the abdomen to separate the organs, enabling the surgeon to look for signs of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is classified in stages from stage one (mild) to stage four (severe), according to its location and depth.

 

How is it treated?

There are many options for treatment, all of which are based on the severity of symptoms, location of the displaced endometrial tissue, the woman’s age and the outcome the woman wishes for (e.g. improved fertility, pain relief)

There are three main ways to treat endometriosis:

  1. Medications, including hormonal and non-hormonal treatments
  2. Surgical treatment to remove endometrial lesions and adhesions
  3. Complementary treatments including physiotherapy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, nutrition, homeopathy and clinical psychology to assist with pain relief.

 

What can you do?

There are several things you can do to help raise the awareness of endometriosis.

You can wear yellow durimarch into yellowng March to start a conversation, or head on over to March Into Yellow  to change your profile picture to yellow for the month.

You can share information about endometriosis via your social media platforms.

You can take up the March into Yellow Challenge and ask friends and families to sponsor you, to help raise funds for awareness, education and research.

 

For further information about endometriosis, visit Endometriosis Australia

To get involved visit March into Yellow.

 

 

Take care of your heart this Valentine’s Day

heart berriesThis Saturday, 14th February is not only a day for hearts to express their love — it is a day when Heart Research Australia focuses their energy on keeping hearts beating.

Coinciding with Heart Research Month, this national day of action is designed to bring attention to heart disease — one of Australia’s biggest killers.

According to statistics, every 26 minutes, an Australian loses their life to heart disease. That’s 55 Australians every day or around 20,046 people a year.

Funds raised through Heart Research Month will be directed to support research projects that investigate treatments for heart disease and medical conditions. It is hoped that initial research will lead to improved clinical practices in all hospitals around Australia.

Heart disease — also known as Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) refers to an inadequate supply of blood flowing to the heart. This is a serious condition which can lead to angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

Arteries which take blood to the heart can become blocked with a build-up of deposits such as cholesterol, fibrous tissue and calcification. These deposits harden and cause the arteries to narrow. This process is called atherosclerosis.

The good news is that YOU can do a lot to protect the health of your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. For example: Lose excess fat

  • Manage your diabetes if you have it
  • Quit smoking if you are a smoker
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week
  • Reduce stress in your life.

You should also have regular heart checks with your doctor, particularly if there is a family history of heart disease.

So this Valentine’s Day, when you remember your loved one, remember your heart as well, and make a donation to this life-saving research.

Visit http://www.heartresearch.com.au/donate/ to find out how your donation can make a difference.

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
OR
Cancer Council of Australia