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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11687

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (12:08): October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I thank my colleague the member for Calwell Ms Maria Vamvakinou for raising this very important issue in the chamber today. We all know somebody who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The prevalence of this invasive condition has swept the country at an alarming rate and, from the records over the last three decades, affects people of all ages and, surprisingly, all genders. While the condition is much less common in males, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among Australian women. On average, one in eight Australian females will develop breast cancer, and one in 37 females will die from breast cancer before turning 85 years of age. If you put that into a broader context, it means that more than 12,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year and more than 2,600 will lose their lives to this malignant disease.

In 2011 there were a little over 14,500 new cases of breast cancer. Of them, interestingly, 103 were males. This year the National Breast Cancer Foundation has estimated that there will be 15,740 new cases, with this figure expected to grow to over 17,000 by the year 2020. This disturbingly high number is not only indicative of the epidemic of breast cancer that is becoming very significant throughout our communities; it also points to the need to raise awareness to reduce the impact of breast cancer on Australian women—and men, for that matter—and particularly to assist their families.

While the cause of breast cancer is not necessarily fully understood at the moment, we do know that age is a significant factor associated with the development of this disease. According to the study conducted by Cancer Australia in 2008, more than half of breast cancers in Australian females were diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 69, one in eight were diagnosed in ages 70 and over, while just under one in four were diagnosed in women under the age of 50. The risk of developing breast cancer can clearly be seen to be age related; however, approximately five to 10 per cent of breast cancers are due to genetic mutations arising from very strong family histories.

I learnt much about this disease earlier this year when my mother, who is 86 years of age, found, through a mammogram, that she had a cancerous growth. We went through the issues of having a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. Notwithstanding that her identical twin sister had had her breasts removed some 40 years earlier, Mum thought that at 86 she was past that. She was just having a periodic mammogram when the cancer was revealed. This shows that simply having reached a significant age is not something that should be used as an excuse for avoiding the unpleasantness of a mammogram. Irrespective of age, we encourage women to regularly attend mammogram screening, because it is early diagnosis and treatment that enhances survival rates.

Since the introduction of mammographic screening programs through BreastScreen Australia, approximately 4,500 breast cancer cases have been diagnosed each and every year. This early intervention has certainly improved survival rates. Eighty-nine out of every 100 women diagnosed with breast cancer survive five or more years beyond diagnosis. That is a pretty significant number that shows that we are getting on top of it. But it is only through early intervention.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia for all their endeavours in supporting this important research and their efforts to find a cure for this insidious disease.