Website launched to support Australia’s 130,000 breast cancer survivors

Wednesday 1 October, 2008

Approximately 130,000* breast cancer survivors in Australia are facing the challenge of ‘life after breast cancer'. Today, National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre launches a new website providing vital information about this pivotal time in the breast cancer journey when treatment stops but life goes on.

The website provides useful, practical suggestions on a range of areas including body image, the side-effects of treatment, sexuality, fertility, complementary therapies, relationships, finances and returning to work, in addition to videos of breast cancer survivors describing their personal experiences of ‘life after breast cancer'.

"It is easy to assume life should just go back to ‘normal' when treatment finishes. However, this can be a difficult time for many people," said Dr Helen Zorbas, Director National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre.

"People can experience a range of emotions such as a sense of vulnerability as a result of their cancer diagnosis or a loss of security at no longer seeing members of their health care team regularly.

"Some are facing the side-effects of treatment such as lymphoedema, or symptoms of treatment-induced menopause. Others are dealing with issues of body image after a mastectomy, or loss of fertility.

"Breast cancer survivors not only have to manage their own expectations about life after treatment but also the expectations of those closest to them. This website is a simple way for both survivors and their families to access information on what they can expect," said Dr Zorbas.

More women are surviving breast cancer than ever before. Today, 88 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be alive five years after their diagnosis. This compares to a five-year survival rate of 71 per cent for women diagnosed 20 years ago. About 130,000* women are alive in Australia who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 23 years.

"Australian women are very well supported with information about all aspects of their diagnosis and treatment, but this new website fills an area of need in offering support after the completion of active treatment," said Dr Zorbas.

Life after breast cancer is the newest addition to National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre's comprehensive website. It draws on the experiences of women and men who have completed treatment for breast cancer and includes information and tips from survivors and healthcare providers.

To access the Life after breast cancer website, visit www.nbocc.org.au/survivorship.

Interviews are available with Dr Helen Zorbas and breast cancer survivors whose stories are featured on the website.