Job not done on breast cancer

November 3rd, 2015

Too many Australians are still unaware of the link between their genetics and their risk of breast cancer with more than 90 per cent failing to adequately understand their family medical history, according to new research released by the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

A new survey of over 1000 Australians has also revealed that close to half of Australians (45%) are unaware that women can inherit risk factors for breast cancer from both their mother and their father.

Despite high profile celebrities with familial links to breast cancer, and the so-called Angelina Jolie effect, there remains a profound lack of understanding of the complexities of breast cancer among Australians, with just two in 10 aware of the terms BRCA1 or BRCA2 and almost half have never heard of terms including metastatic, HER2 or triple negative breast cancers.

With an ambition of achieving zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030, NBCF is reminding Australians this Breast Cancer Awareness Month that the job is not yet done when it comes to breast cancer.

Jackie Coles, NBCF Acting CEO said, “Our study has revealed Australians are still unclear of the true impact of breast cancer. Research shows that while some risk factors are out of our control, one third of cancers are potentially preventable, so it’s important that Australians understand the measures they can take to reduce their risk.

“Familial breast cancer only accounts for up to 10 per cent of all breast cancers, but knowing your family history, getting screened and making the right lifestyle choices is vital to reducing your personal risk.”

Breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), with one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. In 2015, 15,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and seven women will die from the disease every day.

However, the research revealed that just eight per cent of Australians are aware that between two and five thousand people die from breast cancer each year.

The majority of Australians surveyed (83 per cent), were also unaware that innovation in science and research has increased breast cancer survival rates in Australia to 89 per cent.

“The great news is not only do Australians with breast cancer benefit from the research funded by NBCF, but research into breast cancer also has implications for other cancers, with researchers applying their learnings to melanoma, lung and ovarian cancer,” said Ms Coles.

Since NBCF was established in 1994, more than $115 million has been awarded to more than 400 Australian-based projects to improve the health and wellbeing of those affected by breast cancer. In addition to improving the lives of those affected by breast cancer, nearly one third of NBCF-funded research has, or will, impact on health service policy and decision making.

Yet, despite survival rates being at an all-time high and the many achievements already made in the field of breast cancer research, further research into detection, prevention and management of the disease is as important as ever to help find a cure. That is why NBCF is encouraging Australians to be mindful of the devastation breast cancer continues to wreak and to keep supporting essential research.

About the survey

The study was commissioned by the NBCF and conducted by research house Galaxy Research among a national sample of 1,012 Australians aged 18-64 years. The survey challenged participants’ current awareness of breast cancer, in terms of survivorship, impact, prevalence, genetic history and risk factors and how knowledge of these factors influences their attitude towards breast cancer research.