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Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Page: 8614


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs) (22:00): No-one remains unaware that each year we observe October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, the support and promotions increase and this year is surely one of the greatest achievements for the organisations involved. Percentages of profits from pink merchandising are donated to breast cancer research and pink fun runs, pink footy, pink netball rounds, pink lighting on buildings, Pink Ribbon Day and pink social activities of all kinds have helped spread the message. The message of course is that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia and one in nine women and a small number of men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

The incidence of breast cancer is increasing, but the good news is that the survival rate has also increased markedly. Now, with the focus on screening and early detection, the majority of breast cancer cases are diagnosed when the cancer is still localised. Now 97 out of 100 of those diagnosed with localised breast cancer will survive five or more years. The mortality rate has declined from 28.6 per 100,000 women in 1980 to 22.1 per 100,000 women in 2007. Awareness of breast cancer as a major health problem for women in Australia and the support for the work of research, treatment and screening organisations have grown enormously since the establishment in 1995 of the National Breast Cancer Centre.

The realisation that ovarian cancer awareness needs the same support led to the incorporation of support for ovarian cancer in these campaigns too. This work is being led by Ovarian Cancer Australia and was supported by the former National Breast Cancer Centre, which officially changed its name to the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre in 2008, realising that the large gains in survival rates for some cancers such as breast cancer have been in large part due to investment in research. Ovarian Cancer Australia is launching a national research program focused on early detection, diagnosis and treatment. Applications for funding grants will open in April, with the inaugural funding grant awarded in November 2012.

February will be Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and teal is the ovarian cancer awareness colour—that lovely dark blue-green. According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, OCRF, 'One woman dies every 10 hours from ovarian cancer in Australia.' Statistics indicate that in 2011 more than 1,200 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and, sadly, around 800 will die from the disease. Currently, 75 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are in the advanced stages and will not survive beyond five years. Yet, if diagnosed early, the majority of those women could survive. Unfortunately, as yet there is no definitive early test for this cancer, so much work needs to be done.

In the last month, as well as being Breast Cancer Awareness Month some of you may have noticed it was also Frocktober. Frocktober began in October 2007 when some friends in Geelong decided it was time to do something fun and quirky to raise funds for women's health. They each donned a dress, went out to the pub, passed around a hat and raised $200. Frocktober was born. The Frocktober challenge is simple: wear a dress to raise funds and awareness for ovarian cancer research. Frocktober aims to help improve the outlook for women with ovarian cancer by supporting the quest for a suitable early detection test through fundraising for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

In 2010, the ACT Frocktober committee raised $42,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation—a huge 37 per cent of the national total. Last Saturday, the ACT ALP young women's network organised a fashion parade in support of Frocktober featuring dresses and hats from the 1920s through to the present. The member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, and I, both ACT Frocktober ambassadors, emceed the event, and I enjoyed sharing with the crowd some of my ill-informed commentary on the beautiful clothes and models. I was inspired by the effort and the clothes. It was wonderful to see real articles of clothing sourced from the twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and seventies and, indeed, eighties—which were very shiny.

Senator Chris Evans: I used to wear suits from that era.

Senator LUNDY: I think you would look marvellous in a safari suit, Senator Evans!

Senator Chris Evans: I would never do that. Even I draw the line there!

Senator LUNDY: The wonderful thing about fashion through the ages is that it does get people talking. Our guest speaker, Professor Jane Dahlstrom, Professor of Anatomical Pathology at the ANU Medical School and researcher at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, told us of her work and the important role of pathology in this area of research and diagnosis. The event was immensely successful and Jane's speech was absolutely fascinating—that insight from a pathologist's perspective—and we raised over $2,000 for ovarian cancer research. We are currently waiting to see what the national total is for this year's Frocktober fundraising efforts.

Federally, a number of government supported bodies play important roles in the fight against these cancers. The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre is the national authority, funded by the Australian government. Its charter is to coordinate breast cancer initiatives, to guide health professionals in the delivery of care, to inform patients and the community and to improve survival through information and education.

Breast Cancer Network Australia advocates for patients and their families and provides support and information. Just over a week ago, at the Lodge, BCNA launched its new online partner support program. This event was hosted by Tim Mathieson and BCNA's Chief Executive Officer, Lyn Swinburne. The network also has federal government support for its important rural support program.

The McGrath Foundation, together with the federal government, has since 2009 provided funding for specialist breast care nurses in communities and rural centres across Australia.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation supports investigator initiated research and, since first offering funds to support breast cancer research in 1995, has awarded valuable grants to research teams in every state and territory. Research projects are chosen for funding through a rigorous peer-review system. One project of special interest to me was the fellowship awarded in 2005 to Dr Sandra Hayes of the Queensland University of Technology for work on 'Physical activity and breast cancer recovery—research to reality'.

This Australian research has been backed by similar studies in America which examine the relationship between physical activity and cancers such as breast cancer. The studies report that the evidence supporting physical activity as a means of cancer prevention is now considered 'strong', as are lifestyle factors such as diet and weight loss. Of course this does not mean that a person with this lifestyle will not develop breast cancer but, to quote Melinda Irwin of the Yale University School of Public Health, it does statistically mean that if a breast cancer develops it is likely to be at a later age and, say, a stage 1 rather than a stage 2 or 3. Importantly, too, the studies have shown that those active and exercising after diagnosis have a 30 to 50 per cent lower risk of recurrence. A program of brisk walking for 30 minutes, five days a week, had positive results.

All of this research deserves greater exposure. Education, knowledge, awareness and information have the potential to save lives, and I think we have seen that as women have become more aware about screening.

There were many activities throughout October and one of them was the annual Dragons Abreast Regatta. As patron, I was pleased to present this year's awards at the annual Dragons Abreast Dragon Boat Challenge on 22 October at Weston Park. Dragons Abreast was founded for breast cancer survivors of any age, on the principle of participation and inclusiveness.

In conclusion, I want to associate myself with the comments made by Senator Judith Adams in the matters of public interest discussion last week when she gave a warm tribute to the work of Lyn Swinburne, the outgoing CEO of Breast Cancer Network Australia. (Time expired)