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Lots to live for - Indigenous women urged to be breast aware

A new breast awareness video designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to share with family and friends on social media aims to increase early detection of breast cancer and improve survival.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Australia, including among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, yet Indigenous women are 16 per cent less likely to survive than non-Indigenous women.

Cancer Australia CEO, Dr Helen Zorbas, said the video, titled Lots to live for, had been produced to put vital knowledge about the importance of breast awareness and early detection of breast cancer in the hands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and communities.

“Finding breast cancer early, while it is still confined to the breast, significantly increases the chances of survival,” Dr Zorbas said. “Early detection of breast cancer through breast awareness and increasing participation in mammographic screening are important ways to improve survival outcomes and address the disparity in breast cancer survival between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women.”

Professor Jacinta Elston, Chair of the Cancer Australia Leadership Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Control, and an Aboriginal woman from Townsville, supported the video’s message and encouraged women to share it on social media.

“Studies have shown that social media has been used effectively in getting health messages out into our community,” Professor Elston said.

“Sharing Cancer Australia’s Lots to live for video on social media will start a conversation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about breast cancer and how early detection can save lives.

“If you are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, it is vitally important you know the normal look and feel of your breasts, the symptoms to look out for and the importance of seeing their doctor if you find a change.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged between 50 and 74 years are also encouraged to have a free breast screen every two years. Mammographic screening is the best early detection test for reducing deaths from breast cancer.”

Professor Elston, who is herself a breast cancer survivor, acknowledged that some Indigenous women may be reluctant to discuss a breast change, due to shame, embarrassment, fear or stigma, but that this could seriously impact on their breast cancer outcomes.

“Changes in your breast may not be due to cancer, but if you find a change that is new or unusual, it’s important to see a doctor without delay,” Professor Elston said. “We need to look after our health - for ourselves and our families.”

The Lots to live for video, which features NITV’s Marngrook Footy Show presenter Leila Gurruwiwi, is designed to be easily accessible and shareable on social media platforms widely used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Cancer Australia is committed to improving cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," Dr Zorbas said.