Mums urged to lower their cancer risk on Mother's Day

Thursday 3 May, 2012

Cancer Council Victoria is calling on mums of all ages to spend some time thinking about their health next Sunday (May 13) and make a plan to get up-to-date with screening.

Cancer Council Victoria’s Screening Programs Manager Kate Broun said mums spend a lot of time looking after their family’s health and Mother’s Day should remind them how important they are to their families.

“We’re asking mums to spend time looking after their own health,” Ms Broun said. “Especially since screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancers are so effective in reducing the risk of cancer in Victorian women.”

Ms Broun said the biggest cancer killer of women in Victoria is breast cancer. Although the rates of those dying from breast cancer are dropping, women still need to be ‘breast aware’.

Cancer Council statistics show that in Victoria in 2010, 3,499 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 763 women died from the disease.

Breast screening by mammogram is recommended by Cancer Council for women aged 50 and older every two years.

“If you notice any unusual lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast or armpit, changes in the skin on the breast such as dimpling, puckering or redness, or changes in the nipple like it pointing inwards rather than out (unless it has always been this way) you should seek medical advice immediately,” she said.

Ms Broun said regular Pap tests are also extremely important for Victorian women in reducing their risk of cervical cancer.

‘We recommend all women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active have a Pap test every two years, even if they’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine,” Ms Broun said.

“Most Victorian women diagnosed with cervical cancer haven’t had regular Pap tests despite the fact that cervical screening is the best preventative measure against the disease. We implore all women to make a special effort this Mother’s Day to book in for a Pap test if they are overdue. We know that 90% of cervical cancer diagnoses can be avoided with two-yearly screening.”

Ms Broun said bowel cancer was another one of the biggest killers of women in Victoria.

The latest statistics from 2010 showed 1,624 Victorian women were diagnosed with bowel cancer while 596 women died.

“It’s a tragic statistic given 90% of bowel cancers are curable if detected early.

Women are encouraged to check for bowel cancer with a simple, at-home screening test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT).

“We recommend this test be done every two years from the age of 50,” Ms Broun said. “FOBTs can find signs of early-stage bowel cancer which, in many cases, has no visible symptoms.

She said any women with symptoms such as constipation or looser, more frequent bowel motions, stomach pains, bleeding after a bowel motion or fatigue should visit their doctor.

Ms Broun also encouraged women to cut their cancer risk by exercising regularly, eating healthy food and making other healthy changes like quitting smoking or reducing the amount of alcohol they drink.

For more information about screening and cutting your cancer risk visit www.cutyourcancerrisk.org.au or call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

For information on cervical cancer, Pap tests or the cervical cancer vaccine, visit www.papscreen.org.au.

Quick facts:

Breast cancer: it's recommended women receive regular mammograms, every two years from the age of 50.

Cervical cancer: all women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active are encouraged to have a Pap test every two years, even if they’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine.

Bowel cancer: much like breast screening, it is recommended women do a bowel cancer screening test (FOBT) every two years from the age of 50.

Updated: 03 May, 2012