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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 95

Senator LUNDY (9:50 PM) —Senators will know that October was Breast Cancer Awareness month. Many of Canberra’s best known buildings and those in other cities were lit up in pink and there were well patronised dinners and fundraisers, as well as wonderful publicity and support for many organisations throughout the month. Fundraising does, however, continue throughout the year, as does the work of the various support, research and fund raising organisations. I am always delighted that so many of the fund raising and support activities are focused on sporting events and encouragement to be involved in sport.

One of the October activities that I have been involved with over the years has been the annual Dragons Abreast Regatta. This year was the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Dragons Abreast Australia, and the anniversary regattas have featured the motto: ‘Ten Years on Paddling Strong’. Dragons Abreast was founded for breast cancer survivors of any age on the principle of participation and inclusiveness. For participants, competitive outcome is secondary to the idea that they are winners simply by being involved and able to paddle. Dragons Abreast was established in the ACT back in November 1999 and has become increasingly popular over the years. The ACT Regatta on 25th October was supported by the Canberra Dragon Boat Association and was fully subscribed.

That breast cancer survival may be improved by exercise is a belief that has received increasing attention in recent years. One of the research projects receiving National Breast Cancer Foundation funding is a study by Dr Sandra Hayes on physical activity and breast cancer recovery. Dr Hayes has shown that physical activity improves quality of life and coping abilities after treatment for breast cancer. She is researching two projects related to cancer recovery: one focusing on lymphoedema and the second focusing on exercise interventions among women with breast cancer.

A study in the United States has also reported that women who have been physically active before the diagnosis of breast cancer are more likely to survive. However, another report warns that:

‘While there is emerging consensus that exercise has a protective effect for postmenopausal breast cancer, there has been only limited evidence to suggest that there is a similar protective effect’ in younger women.

Approximately one in four breast cancers is diagnosed in premenopausal women. Cancer Research UK reports mounting evidence that a healthy lifestyle involving a high vegetable and fruit diet and physical activity could double the survival rate of women who have had breast cancer. This halving of the risk however was reported for those who had adopted both the healthy diet and the physical activity rather than just one of these elements.

It is encouraging that this research is progressing and that Australia is taking such a prominent role. Perhaps in a sense of complementing this line of investigation, one of the most popular ways to raise funds for research and support services is through sponsorship of sporting events. One of the most successful of these is the Mother’s Day Classic fun run in state and territory capitals and regions, and sponsored by Women in Super. Money raised from the Mother’s Day Classic is the largest single donation each year to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. On 11 May, I was privileged to fire the starter’s gun for this year’s ACT 10- and five-kilometre runs and walks around Lake Burley Griffin. This year, the Mother’s Day Classic raised a national total of $1.2 million—the highest amount ever in the event’s 11-year history—and attracted a record number of participants, over 67,000. Of this number, more than 3,700 were in the Canberra run, making it the fastest growing event of all the Mother’s Day classics in that there was a 55 per cent increase over the 2007 turn out. We estimate that of the $1.2 million raised on 11 May, approximately $70,000 would have been from the ACT.

Corporate sponsors are extremely important to the success of these events and the numbers of corporate sponsors for cancer fundraising events continue to grow through the efforts of the cancer workers and volunteers. Individuals and teams are also encouraged to raise money for cancer research and support services through sponsorships. I congratulate Patricia Rae, the highest individual fundraiser in the ACT for the Mother’s Day Classic fun run. Patricia raised $8,125 and was the third highest fundraiser in Australia. Similarly inspiring was the initiative of champion master sprinter Gianna Mogentale of Wollongong. At the Alice Springs Masters Games of October 2006, she gained sponsorship for her events to raise money for the Alice Springs cancer council. To earn her sponsorship money, she had to not only win her events but also break the existing records at the Alice Springs Master Games, which are held every two years. She did this successfully in all six events she entered and raised well over $1,000 for the cancer council.

Pink Ribbon Day on Monday, 27 October this year, was also a big fundraising day throughout Australia. Cancer councils, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and other cancer groups raised funds for research into the causes and treatments of breast cancer, support services and information, and education programs to raise awareness of breast cancer. On Pink Ribbon Day, the Prime Minister attended the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre breakfast and reaffirmed the government’s support for breast cancer programs and research with the announcement of $800,000 of extra funding to extend early intervention programs.

In the last decade there is no doubt that awareness of the cost to the community of breast cancer and the need to devote resources to tackling the problem has grown enormously. We know that one in every 11 women is likely to be diagnosed as having breast cancer during her lifetime. The increased survival rate of breast cancer sufferers can be largely attributed to this awareness, leading to early detection, and to the fundraising and research instigated by bodies such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre—formerly the National Breast Cancer Centre—and the cancer councils of each state and territory.

Each year in Australia more than 13,000 women and about 95 men are diagnosed with breast cancer and there are still 2,500 deaths per year. The encouraging news is that the breast cancer five-year relative survival rate has increased from 72 per cent in the period 1982-86 to 88 per cent in the period 1998-04.

Since 1994, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has been Australia’s leading not-for-profit community organisation, supporting and promoting research into breast cancer. Its ultimate goal is to raise enough money to fund a cure for breast cancer. Overall to date, the foundation has committed a total of $4.5 million to research, including $500,000 committed to equipment grants in 1995. Last year, the foundation allocated $14.8 million to research—a 48 per cent increase on the previous year. To date, administrative costs of this organisation have been met from investments, ensuring that money donated goes directly to research.

The foundation stresses the need for national collaboration in research projects. The Cancer Council Australia and the cancer councils of each state and territory have been conducting clinical trials and research studies that test new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. They have found that people being treated as part of a clinical trial do better than people treated outside of a clinical trial. They get the best available treatment or treatment that may be better and receive extra personalised care and attention from their research nurses and treating doctors. Clinical trials already have enabled numerous advances in cancer care.

On 24 September , the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation announced a $5 million research project, which will involve the study of over 100,000 Australian women. The cohort study will support research for future studies on prevention, screening and treatments. Potentially, the study could benefit research into other cancers.

In addition to our $2.5 million commitment, the Rudd government recently announced its support for the McGrath Foundation by providing it with funding to provide specialist breast cancer nurses in 44 locations, mostly in regional and rural areas. The McGrath Foundation was set up by Jane and Glenn McGrath to support those battling the disease, as Jane did. The government will provide $12 million to help the foundation to recruit, train and employ the 44 breast cancer nurses. Locations for the nurses have been negotiated by the McGrath Foundation in consultation with state and territory governments on the basis of areas of need. Each year, I try to reflect on developments in breast cancer research and how we are progressing as a society in battling this disease. I am pleased to see that, once again, there has been some serious progress in this regard.