Written by Emily James
The McGrath Foundation estimates that approximately 57 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every day in 2022, with 20 640 having already been diagnosed so far. Although there have been significant advancements in research and treatment in recent years, raising awareness of the impacts of this disease for those diagnosed and their loved ones still remains important.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways you can participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, no matter how much or how little you know about the disease. We’ll also take a look at how and where you can access support if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer:
- Learn more about the disease and the treatment options
- Donate and participate in community initiatives
- Your next steps and where to find support
Learn more about breast cancer and the treatment options
Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in Australia, with around 1 in 7 women and 1 in 600 men receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Most diagnoses of breast cancer occur in those aged over 50 (80%), however, the disease can still affect younger people, with predictions indicating around 1000 young women will be diagnosed by the end of this year.
Although the five year survival rate has increased to 92% since 1994, it’s important to understand how the different stages of breast cancer can affect an individual’s treatment options and chance of survival. Just like with any other cancer, the earlier someone is diagnosed, the more likely they are to recover completely without the need for intensive and invasive treatment.
If you’re interested in learning more about breast cancer but don’t know where to start, you can use the questions below as starting points for your research:
- Who is most at risk of developing breast cancer? Do these factors apply to me or someone I know?
- What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
- What are the different stages of breast cancer and how do they affect a person’s treatment options and survival rate?
- Should I, or someone I know, book a breast cancer screening? How does this work?
- What treatment options and support is available to me or someone I know in the event of a breast cancer diagnosis?
When researching something as complex as cancer, finding straightforward and reliable information can be challenging. Here are some reputable Australian organisations that offer specific information, support and advice:
Donate and participate in community initiatives
We are very fortunate in Australia to have a range of organisations dedicated to researching breast cancer and improving the quality of life of patients and their loved ones. These organisations often run initiatives in the wider community to raise awareness and funds for research, meaning anyone can contribute to these causes.
Breast Cancer Network Australia was started in 1998 by a group of women with breast cancer who wanted to normalise open discussions about breast cancer and its impact . As well as providing information and support for those affected by the disease, they run face-to-face forums across rural and regional Australia throughout the year. They also encourage people in the community to run their own events, such as a Pink Sports Day or the Mini-Field of Women Tribute. There’s even options for those short on time and resources, such as buying a pink bun at Bakers Delight, or participating in the Pink Bra project in collaboration with Berlei.
The McGrath Foundation was started by the late Jane McGrath and her husband Glenn McGrath to ensure every family living with breast cancer can access a breast cancer nurse for free. Although their main mission is to supply breast cancer nurses to Australian patients and their families, they also organise a range of initiatives for the wider community. You can head to the Pink Test in January next year or play a game of cricket yourself by getting your team involved in Pink Stumps Day. Alternatively, you can organise your own event at your workplace or with family and friends, such as a pink party, a pink bake-off, a haircut or a health challenge.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation has funded transformative breast cancer research since 1994, and is working towards a goal of zero deaths from breast cancer. While funding research into treatment and prevention of the disease is their primary purpose, they also support community-based projects. Take part in the Pink Ribbon Breakfast by hosting a meal at your home, workplace or local community centre to raise funds for breast cancer research, or donate to breast cancer research directly. If you’re an active person, you can raise money by completing a sporting event, or you can participate in another fundraiser that works with your abilities and other commitments.
Your next steps and where to find support
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may wish to seek out some extra support. Whether this is in the form of health advice, peer support or individual counselling, sharing your feelings and concerns with a qualified and experienced professional can help you feel less alone after a breast cancer diagnosis:
- BCNA Helpline: a helpline for women and men living with breast cancer and their families and friends. They provide information about the disease and can refer patients to relevant support services. Call 1800 500 258 between 9:00am and 5:00pm AEST, or send them an email at [email protected].
- Peer support: face-to-face support groups in most Australian states and territories. Patients can also access the BCNA Online Network and/or a private online group for people living with metastatic breast cancer.
- Financial assistance: financial assistance to support women with metastatic breast cancer with the cost of their treatment.
- Other support: support with employment, child care, travel and other areas of a person’s life impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis.
Sharing your feelings and experiences with a trusted professional, a peer or others in a similar situation can help you navigate your cancer diagnosis regardless of your age or background. You can also chat to your local GP or Australia-wide mental health services such as BeyondBlue.
Whatever your experience with breast cancer is, we encourage you to take this month to do something to support those living with the disease, no matter how small. Whether you take a few minutes to research breast cancer, encourage a friend to book a screening or get involved with the McGrath Foundation, any and all contributions this October will go a long way to supporting research, treatment and support services.
Disclaimer: The advice provided in this article is general in nature. For more information relating to your individual circumstances, please speak to your healthcare provider.
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