Women's cancers

This year, more than 15,700 women in Victoria will be diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 5,000 will die from the disease. 6,000 Victorian women will be diagnosed with breast or gynaecological cancer.

The good news is that the rate of women dying from cancer is declining. Throughout the last decade, the rate has been consistently decreasing by 1.5% per year. 

By living a healthy lifestyle and participating in recommended screening programs, women can significantly reduce their risk of developing cancer and increase their chances of discovering it early.

 

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common new cancer in Victorian women. 

Five-year survival rates for breast cancer have increased to 91% – from 73% twenty years ago.

Most changes in the breast (in fact 9 out of 10) aren't due to breast cancer. But if you do notice a change, it's important to get it checked by a doctor. 

A mammogram is the best way to catch breast cancer early. Early detection of breast cancer means treatment has a much better chance of success. 

Three simple steps that could save your life:

  1. Become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts.
  2. See a doctor if you notice any unusual breast changes.
  3. If you're aged 50 to 74, have a free mammogram at BreastScreen every 2 years.

Currently only around 53% of 50-74-year-old Victorian women participate in the breast screening program.

 

Gynaecological cancers

Gynaecological cancers include cancers of the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovary, placenta, uterus (endometrium), vagina and vulva.

In 2017, 1,459 Victorian women were diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer and 491 women died from a gynaecological cancer.

 

Cervical cancer

7 in 10 Victorian women who develop cervical cancer either never had a cervical screening test or did not have them regularly prior to diagnosis.

Regular cervical screening tests can prevent around 90% of cervical cancers, but currently only around 58% of Victorian women take the tests.

All women aged 25 to 74 who've ever been sexually active should have a cervical screening test every five years, even if they're no longer having sex. This is the best way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer.

If it’s been more than two years since your last Pap test, you should talk to your doctor or nurse as soon as possible about being screened.

 

Find a cervical screening provider

 

Women of any age who have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge or pain should see their health care professional immediately, regardless of when they were last screened.

  

Our research

In the past decade, people like you have helped us fund over $7 million into research at Victorian-based laboratories looking at new treatments for gynaecological cancers.

Our research initiatives, along with improvements to the screening program in 2017, have resulted in cervical cancer being set to become eradicated in Australia by 2035.

This year we’ve also partnered with the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation to commit $300,000 for a project looking at new treatments for ovarian cancer to run from 2020-2022. 

We’ve also spent more than $12.5 million on breast cancer research in the past decade, leading to improved early detection methods and treatment options.

In a worldwide breakthrough in 2017, our very own epidemiologists helped find new genetic variants to explain why women with a family history have a higher risk of breast cancer. Working with 300 different institutions across six continents, researchers found 72 new genetic variants that predict the risk of developing breast cancer. The findings will help inform improved risk prediction, both for the general population and for BRCA1 mutation carriers.

 

Francine's story

"As a cancer patient, it’s so important to have hope. By hosting a Girls’ Night In you’re raising money for vital research into women’s cancers, which gives women like me hope that we can live longer and live healthy. I know I’m not alone and treatments have evolved a lot thanks to research."

Francine
Ovarian cancer survivor