October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time to show our support for people affected by breast cancer. Today, we want to lift a lid on the top five ways that Cancer Council NSW is working to reduce the impact of breast cancer on our community.
1. Directly supporting people affected breast cancer
We work with Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) and Aboriginal Health Workers to assist in facilitating Breast Screening days across the state.
In Western Sydney, we facilitate in-language workshops to educate Chinese- and Korean-speaking women on the benefits of screening.
On the Mid North Coast, we help to promote the local BreastScreen NSW mobile van services via golf clubs, local community organisations and schools that we have ties with.
The BreastScreen NSW program invites women aged 50–74 to have free mammograms every two years from the age of 50 (or earlier if your GP advises it), which can help detect breast cancers earlier – even before symptoms are visible.
If you (or someone you know) have concerns about breast changes, we encourage you to consult with a GP as soon as possible. We encourage you to learn more here or on the BreastScreen NSW website.
3. Optimising early detection and screening
There is increasing interest in making breast cancer screening more personalised based on individual women’s risk factors. This is driven by growing evidence on breast cancer risk assessment and risk-based management, the emergence of new breast imaging technologies and a greater awareness among women of the personal, lifestyle and other risk factors associated with developing breast cancer.
Our researchers are investigating this further and working with government and healthcare stakeholders to develop potential risk-based options for screening and the early detection of breast cancer in Australia.
You can learn more about this exciting new area of research here.
4. Supporting women with the side effects of breast cancer treatment
In reproductive aged women, chemotherapy for breast cancer will generally cause menopause. The symptoms of menopause triggered by cancer treatment are often more severe than those experienced with natural menopause.
Symptoms may affect quality of life, daily function, sleep, mental health, intimate relationships and wellbeing. It can also increase risk of other health issues such as heart disease and decreased bone density.
We are currently funding a groundbreaking research project aimed at supporting women with managing symptoms. In this project, Dr Michelle Peate and her team of researchers will develop a website that assesses side effect symptoms and recommends care based on how severe the symptoms are. The website will empower survivors to be in control of their symptom management and ensure all women can access this support.
5. Funding research into new treatments
We are also committing significant funds towards researching new treatment options for breast cancer.
One project we’ve funded at the Westmead Institute of Medical Research, discovered a link between Hormone Replacement Therapy and increased breast cancer risk. The team hopes to develop new agents for treating hormonal disorders, which will help prevent and treat breast cancer more safely.
Other research projects we are currently funding include:
Investigating if a molecular switch in triple-negative breast cancer cells – which can promote the spread of cancer to other parts of the body – can be switched off using gene-editing.
New treatment strategies to prevent hormone therapy resistance, which can occur after hormone therapy in women with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer.
We’ve come a long way in reducing the impact of breast cancer in our community and are striving to keep improving outcomes for all Australians affected by the disease.
You can learn more about breast cancer through our Breast Cancer section. If you have noticed any unusual changes in your breasts or you are experiencing any symptoms or are concerned about your family history, we recommend that you speak to your doctor. If you’re a woman aged 50-74, we also encourage you to take part in screening every two years.