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Report shows more women surviving breast cancer in Victoria

Friday 5 October, 2012
  • 89% of women still alive 5 years after breast cancer diagnosis
  • Breast cancer the most diagnosed cancer in Victorian women

Victorian women living with breast cancer today are more likely to survive for at least five years after their diagnosis than they were 20 years ago, according to statistics released by Cancer Council Victoria.

The figures, from the Cancer Survival in Victoria 2012 report (1mb), show 89% of women (with breast cancer of all stages) studied between 2006 and 2010, were still alive five years after their initial diagnosis. This compared with just 73% of women between 1986 and1990.

The new figures mean breast cancer now has one of the highest five-year survival rates of any cancer diagnosed in Victorian women. Thyroid cancer, melanoma and Hodgkin Lymphoma have the top three, five-year survival rates for women, with breast cancer fourth on the list.

Cancer Council Victoria's statistics show breast cancer is still the leading cancer diagnosed and the leading cause of death in Victorian women.

In 2010, 3,499 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 763 women died from the disease.

Cancer Council Victoria's Screening Programs Manager Kate Broun said while the improvements in survival were great news, women still needed to be vigilant about their breast health and get a mammogram every two years once they reach the age of 50.

"In Victoria, the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer are aged between 50 and 69 and we encourage women to have regular mammograms between those ages," Ms Broun said.

"As the figures show catching breast cancer early means women have a better chance of surviving it."

Ms Broun said while the focus of mammographic screening was women in their 50s and 60s, younger women still needed to be aware of their breast health.

"It's important for all women to be breast aware at any age – that means being familiar with what's normal for you and seeking medical advice when things don't look or feel right," she said.

Symptoms of breast cancer can include:

  • A lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast or armpit
  • Changes in the skin on the breast such as dimpling, puckering or redness
  • Changes in the nipple like it pointing inwards rather than out (unless it's always been this way) as well as a change in nipple direction or an unusual discharge.

Ms Broun said free mammograms were available through BreastScreen Victoria for women aged 50 to 69. Women aged 40 to 49 or 70 and older also have free access to the BreastScreen Victoria program should they choose to have mammographic screening.

"Like all screening tests, mammograms aren't perfect so it's important for women to be aware of the pros and cons of screening," Ms Broun said.

Girls' Night In, a campaign to raise funds for breast and other women's cancers, runs throughout October. The premise is simple; women register to host a fun night in with their friends, and donate to the Cancer Council what they would've spent on a night out. All funds raised are channeled into research and support services for breast and gynaecological cancers. To register visit the Girls' Night In website or call 1300 65 65 85.