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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 4069


Senator COONAN —I address my question to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. Minister, you would be aware that today is Australia's Breast Cancer Day. Would you please inform the Senate of what actions the government is taking to raise awareness of breast cancer, to increase the effectiveness of early detection and to improve research into treatment of the 7,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year?


Senator NEWMAN —This, in a very real sense, is a life and death question and, for Australian women, it is a most important issue which has had more attention in the last few years than it has had in the many years before—and rightly so because we have been losing about 2,500 women a year in Australia to breast cancer. There is no need for many of those deaths if early detection is encouraged. The issue is that currently one in 14 women in Australia will be detected as having breast cancer but early detection gives the greatest chance of survival.   The good news is that Australia is at last starting to make some inroads into the statistics both by early detection and treatment and medical research and also by the simple community awareness of what breast cancer is, what the risk factors are and what we women can do to minimise the danger to us.

The day is a call to action for women from the ages of about 35 up to 70, but it also aims to motivate the wider community. Those men who love the women in their lives need to share the responsibility of making sure that they do self-examine, that they do have regular check ups and that, if they are in the 40-plus and certainly in the 50-plus age groups, they do avail themselves of the two-yearly mammography screening which is provided by the federal government.

The theme for this year is `Take care, take action'. It is largely organised by the Australian Cancer Society in association with Breast Screen Australia and the National Breast Cancer Centre, and it has the government's full support. The key messages for the day are: if you have any breast problems, see your doctor as soon as possible; if you are over 50, have a screening mammogram every two years through Breast Screen Australia; and if you are over 35 or have a family history of breast cancer, do regular self-examination.

I am wearing a pink ribbon today, which I draw to the Senate's attention. This is the fund raiser part of the day. The funds that are raised will go to the Kathleen Cunningham Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, which was established in 1994. This government has provided it with direct funding of $1 million in this budget, with up to an extra $1 million for dollar for dollar matching of private donations.

There is a national phone-in from six till nine this evening with health professionals available to answer questions about breast cancer. I do urge those who may be listening to the broadcast of the Senate to avail themselves of that opportunity.

In the five years to 30 June this year, Breast Screen Australia performed over 1.67 million screening tests—527,000 in the last financial year. Early detection gives the chance of doing something about this menace. I urge Australian women and those who love them to take note today, do something to help breast cancer research and do something to save the women in your life.