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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11686


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (12:03): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion, as in Cowan and all the way round this country this is unfortunately a very big issue for Australian women and their families. Before speaking specifically about breast cancer awareness, I note that the reality is that the most commonly diagnosed cancers, excluding non-melanoma skin cancers, are prostate cancer, followed by bowel cancer, then breast cancer, melanoma and lung cancer. Although there are more than 100 different types of cancers, these five most common types account for 60 per cent of all cancers. It is hard to see a positive side to these issues but it is true that progress is being made.

When I think of this form of cancer, I think it is important to acknowledge that breast cancer awareness and its advocates have achieved great progress in that awareness, and I say that about all the forms of cancer. So many more people are talking about cancer and contributing towards fundraising for research. I really do believe that it has been the campaigns regarding breast cancer awareness that have led the way in the conversation about cancers. Really, the legacy of Jane McGrath and our cricketers wearing pink together with Pink Ribbon Day demonstrate the high level of awareness that has been achieved for breast cancer; also that success has encouraged so many more to talk about the other forms of cancer. Most Australians would now know that about one per cent of breast cancer diagnoses occur among men, and that would not have been the case before.

I will go now to the facts that surround breast cancer, and it is sobering. The statistics show that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Worse again is that seven women a day in Australia die from breast cancer. Again, when I think of such figures, the impact on families is profound. Across the country, these figures mean that in this year there are expected to be 15,600 women diagnosed with breast cancer and it is predicted that in 2020 the figure will be 17,210—or 47 a day. On a personal level, I am grateful that there is, to the best of my knowledge, no history of this type of cancer in my family. Sadly, that is not the case for many other families; therefore, the need for research must always be there.

In preparing for this speech, I have become better informed myself. I know that the strongest risk factors are increasing age, with more than two-thirds of breast cancer cases occurring in women aged between 40 and 69 years. The figures also underline that Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 89 per cent chance of surviving five years after diagnosis, and that is certainly good news. This motion is about awareness and now more women survive breast cancer because of earlier detection through regular mammograms and, of course, the developments and improvements of treatments.

With regard to the awareness of the disease, most Australians would be able to say that breast cancer is in fact a malignant tumour that originates in the cells of the breast. These cells grow abnormally and multiply, developing into cancerous growths and can spread or metastasise to other areas of the body. There are, of course, different forms of breast cancer. There are several types and subtypes. The main types are non-invasive breast cancers, which are contained within the milk ducts or lobules in the breast. Invasive breast cancers are cancers that grow in the normal, healthy breast tissue, the nipples and even in the blood vessels. These types often spread to the lymph nodes and elsewhere around the body, as in the insidious stage 4 or advanced breast cancer.

Apart from early detection, the other point I will make in conclusion is the reduction of risk. Although age and, to a lesser degree, family history are the main risk factors, it is generally considered that the reduction of alcohol intake is beneficial. Research says that there is a strong link and that no more than two standard drinks a day is recommended. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout one's life is also recommended. Research also shows that even moderate exercise is beneficial in the reduction of the risk. Even breastfeeding for the first three months is considered to be a way to reduce the risk. Finally, it is recommended that you have five serves of vegetables and two of fruit a day. Of course, that should be everyone's aim, not only with regard to the scourge of breast cancer.

Certainly from my reading on this motion, I have found the figures for the number of women diagnosed each year and those who lose the fight each year disturbing. I am, however, encouraged by the profile and level of awareness that does already exist. Good research and better understanding of the risk factors allow more people to act to reduce the threat of breast cancer and to achieve early detection. That is certainly good news. There is, however, no time for complacency and I certainly support the great work of the National Breast Cancer Foundation and all those dedicated to the eradication of deaths from breast cancer by 2030.