Breast cancer advancements

Tuesday Jun 24 08:00 AEST

The shocking news of Jane McGrath’s death has touched the nation. This year alone more than 2640 women are likely to die from breast cancer.

Although the picture remains bleak for many, research at the National Breast Cancer Foundation is providing hope for the future.

The combination of new research, public awareness and selfless cancer campaigning from people like Jane McGrath have lead to a 22 percent increase in survival rates over the past decade.

CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation Sue Murray says that whilst we still don’t know what causes the disease major advancements in technology have made early prevention and detection possible.

”Research over the past ten years has lead to the development of new early detection tests and whilst the tests are in their early stages the results look promising,” says Ms Murray.

One of the tests being developed is a breath test which looks at the chemical compounds in the breath to detect whether a person has breast cancer.

”There are a number of naturally occurring chemical compounds in a persons breath and scientist now believe a simple breath test will be able to analyse these compounds to identify breast cancer,” she explains.

Research has also found that the structure of the protein that makes up hair changes when an individual has breast cancer.

”Hopefully in the future looking at someone's hair will become a cheap and easy way for early detection,” she says.

In the long term scientists are looking into using blood tests to detect cancer cells. The scientifically complex procedure would involve detecting chemical changes in a person which may potentially lead to breast cancer.

With new preventative and diagnosis tests still under going development Ms Murray urges Australian women to remember that the key to survival is early detection.

”Every woman should regularly have check their breasts for unusual lumps and consult their GP if they are concerned or worried about something,” she says.

There are also a number of lifestyle factors that can be used to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Studies have identified obesity, dense breasts, and excessive alcohol consumption as risk factors for breast cancer.

”People are also classified at high risk if three or more of their family members have had breast cancer,” she says. “Families that carry even just one of the cancer genes have a higher risk at developing breast cancer, as well as prostate cancer in men.”

”At the moment we have to rely upon early detection, this is the best way to help people, however hopefully in the future we will be able to use the above techniques for even earlier detection,” she says.

For more information about breast cancer consult your GP or visit To donate to the McGrath foundation and help to fund a cure for breast cancer visit or call 02 8962 6100.

Breast cancer facts

  • One in eight women will be diagnosed by the age of 85
  • 13,300 women and 100 men will be diagnosed in Australia this year
  • Every day 39 Australian’s hear the words "you have breast cancer"
  • Mortality rates have decreased by 22 percent over the last ten years - research is helping to improve detection, diagnosis, treatment and life as a breast cancer survivor
  • One percent of Australian women are now living with breast cancer
  • 96 percent of women will survive one year after diagnosis, 87percent will survive five years after detection. These figures are a 15 percent increase from the 1980s
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