Of all the disease and illness awareness initiatives we have in Australia, none is more familiar, nor closer to our hearts, than that of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs from October 1 – 31. It is a time to put the focus on the disease, those affected by it, and the research being done to help one day find a cure.
Imagine this. You’re in your 30’s, a mother of two beautiful children, you’re fit and active, the poster girl for every woman. Life is good, you have no concerns about your health.
Then, what’s that? Feels like a lump. Just under my breast, on the right hand side. I’ve never felt that before. Has it always been there and I just haven’t noticed it, or is it new? After a second opinion at her GP, and a referral to a specialist followed by ultrasounds MRIs and a biopsy, breast cancer became a scary reality for Michelle Campbell from Burleigh Heads in Queensland.
“I couldn’t believe it at first, I thought that cancer was something that only happened to other people,” says Michelle. “I’m the kind of person who takes things in their stride, so I just made a decision to fight it hard from Day 1.”
Michelle’s cancer was more aggressive than she originally thought, and required a partial mastectomy in addition to two rounds of chemotherapy. “The side effects of the chemo were the most difficult to come to terms with, I’d truly never wish it on my worst enemy.”
Happily, today Michelle is a picture of health. She has gone on to become a mother to two more children, she has regained her health, and is back to being an active, busy woman. She regularly participates in awareness and fundraising events such as Relay for Life, and celebrates her strength in beating this devastating disease.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with around 12,500 women being diagnosed each year in Australia alone. Although rarely seen in men, it does exist, affecting around 1%.
Despite a marked improvement in survival rates for breast cancer, it still has the capacity to change, impact and devastate the lives of so many.
The best chance to fight and survive breast cancer is early detection, and women are encouraged to note any changes in their breasts, including:
• any kind of lump, especially if it’s only in one breast
• a change in the size or shape of your breast
• any changes to the nipple, including discharge
• a change in the skin texture of your breast such as redness or dimpling
• breast pain that doesn’t go away.
Early detection is often the difference between keeping or losing a breast (although sometimes, a partial or full mastectomy is the best or only option), and can even prolong your life.
GTL can assist in the early detection process, with their BRCA1 & BRCA2 Screening Test which analyses the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes are commonly called ‘tumour suppressors’, and mutations can increase the risk of breast cancer. Tumour suppressor genes essentially prevent cells from dividing too rapidly, so when a mutation of the genes occurs, there is a failure to control and protect the genetic material within the cells, which can lead to breast, ovarian, pancreatic and endometrial cancer.
As many as 5-10% of all breast cancers and 20-25% of hereditary breast cancers are caused by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. GTL also offers the Cancer Panel Genetic Predisposition Test, which can establish your genetic risk of developing a number of hereditary cancers, including breast cancer. Research shows that people with inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes develop cancer at younger ages than those who do not have these mutations, so the earlier a test is performed, the better chance of an early detection and treatment.
GTL’s genetic screening test involves a simple blood test, and using Next Generation Sequencing Technology, extracts the DNA from the blood cells, then analyses the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. It should be noted that the test requires a referral from your GP, but once you order the test, GTL will send you all necessary paperwork for you and your GP to complete.
Even though the subject of breast cancer is always serious, there are ways that you can help that are fun, informative and worthwhile. Throughout the month of October, how about hosting a pink themed fundraiser like a breakfast (bacon, and pink champagne, anyone?), a Pretty in Pink movie night, or simply have a dress in pink day in your workplace, raising funds for breast and other cancers specific to women. Check out the range of event on close to you on the Cancer Council’s Fundraising Page.
GTL values the health of women of all ages, and will be getting in the spirit of pink this October!