Women urged to put their own health first during Women's Health Week

Monday 1 September, 2014
  • 13,312 women diagnosed with cancer in Victoria in 2012
  • 4,806 women died from cancer in Victoria in 2012
  • Deaths from lung (785), breast (751) and bowel (623)

Cancer Council Victoria is urging women to put their health first and take steps to reduce their cancer risk during Women's Health Week (1–5 September).

Cancer Council Victoria's Screening Manager, Kate Broun, said women are often juggling commitments to family, work and friends, leaving less time for them to think about their own health.

"During Women's Health Week, we're asking women to stop and reflect on their health. We've come a long way in cancer research and now have proven cancer screening programs that can detect cancer early, at a stage when it can be most effectively treated. Yet the statistics show that not all women are participating in these life-saving screening programs." 

Just over half (55 per cent) of targeted women in Australia had a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia and 57 per cent of Australian women in the target age group had at least one Pap test in 2010 or 2011. Only 35.9 per cent of women aged 55 years and 43.7 per cent of women aged 65 years returned a completed bowel cancer screening kit for analysis in 2012–2013.

"Clearly, we women could be doing a much better job at cancer screening so this Women's Health Week commit to setting aside the time to put your health first and get it done! It might save your life."

Check your breasts

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, with 3693 cases in Victoria in 2012. According to the Cancer Council 50 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are aged 50–74.

"That's why women aged 50 to 74 should have a breast screening mammogram every two years. Women of every age should also become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts at different times of the month," said Ms Broun. 

Screen for bowel cancer

Ms Broun said women over the age of 50 should screen for bowel cancer every two years with a simple at-home test.

"Early detection is the key to decreasing deaths from bowel cancer. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program allows women to do a simple test in the privacy of their own home. Currently, the program allows for the faecal occult blood tests to be mailed out to women when they turn 50, 55, 60 and 65, but tests are also available from doctors, pharmacies and directly from Cancer Council Victoria. People aged over 50 who currently fall outside the target group, or anyone concerned about bowel cancer, should talk to their GP about bowel cancer screening."

You can also use the bowel cancer risk calculator to help assess your risk by visiting: http://www.cancervic.org.au/bowel-cancer-risk-calculator/

Have regular Pap tests

Ms Broun said all women between the ages of 18 and 70 should have a Pap test every two years.

"Cervical cancer is actually one of the most preventable cancers – 90 per cent of cases can be prevented by regular Pap testing, as detecting abnormal cells early means they can be treated effectively.

Visit papscreen.org.au to find out more. 

Updated: 01 Sep, 2014