Let's Talk Cancer: Ovarian and Breast

As the amazing Tina Harris learnt, even the most wonderful human beings are not exempt from cancer’s terrible touch. One in eight women will be diagnosed with either breast or ovarian cancer at some stage of their lives, and 1 in 2 will be diagnosed with at least one type of cancer in their lifetime. These statistics are alarming, but there are things we can do to either prevent or combat cancer by detecting it at the earliest stage.

About Breast and Ovarian Cancer
In Australia, an estimated 17,586 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. These numbers continue to rise, even with a great awareness system. However, more funding is needed to understand breast cancer and give women the screenings they need. Altough breast cancer can occur at any age, women aged 40 and over are more likely to develop breast cancer. However, in most people, the exact cause of breast cancer is unknown. There are many contributing factors to the chance a person may get breast cancer however, such as; having several first degree relatives that have been diagnosed with breast cancer or a certain type of ovarian cancer, a family member who carries the BRCA1 gene, and long term homone replacement therapy use. Breast cancer has a fairly high survival rate, with the overall 5 year survival rate for women at 90%. Even with these great odds, 2862 women died in 2012 as a result of breast cancer, and we believe that number should be at 0.

Ovarian cancer is a much trickier cancer than breast. With many symptoms almost virtually undetectable or misdiagnosed, no screening process and the survival rate at only 44%, it is a much less spoken of cancer, but just as catastrophic. The amazing Liz Paganoni from our first issue threw together a Frocktober event at the Canadian Bay Hotel on the 26th of October. Putting an eye on how much we do not currently know about ovarian cancer, and speaking up about what seems to be the unspoken cancer, is critical to change these survival rates for women that are yet to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Currently, there is no prevention method for Ovarian Cancer, even with it being the sixth most common cause of cancer death for women in Australia. Women who have had their ovaries removed are also not exempt or immune to this cancer. In 2014, 974 women lost their lives to Ovarian Cancer.

So what can we do?
Other than regular doctor checks, self examinations, breast exams and being in tune with your body, supporting the charities that do research is so important to find a cure and prevention for these cancers. There are several charity events and days you can participate in, such as:
- Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea
- Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day
- Frocktober
- Girl’s Night In
But most importantly, keep the conversation going. Awareness brings education to women, and that in turn could save a fellow girl bosses life.

Check Those Breasts!

There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts. All women are different, as are all breasts. Become familiar to what is your ‘normal’ and it will be easier to know when something is abnormal.
However, here are some things to look out for:
- A new lump in your breast or underarm
- Thickening or swelling of part of your breast
- Irritation or dimpling of your breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in your nipple area or breast
- Pulling in of your nipple
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Any change in the size or the shape of your breast
- Pain in any area of your breast

The most effective way to combat breast cancer is early detection so check your breasts regularly, attend breast screenings and don’t delay!

The Unspoken Symptoms

At present, there are no obvious signs of ovarian cancer, which is why it can go so long undetected. Further research and funding is still urgently needed to find out more information about ovarian cancer, the symptoms and who is more likely to develop ovarian cancer. However, if you are feeling a few of these symptoms unexpectedly, please chat to your doctor:
- Abdominal bloating
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Back, abdominal, or pelvic pain
- Constipation
- Menstrual irregularities
- Fatigue
- Pain during intercourse

There is currently no screening for this cancer, so being in tune with your body and regular doctor check ups are vital. There is also currently no method of prevention, and women who have had their ovaries taken out can also develop ovarian cancer.