PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (20:55): October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Monday, 22 October was Pink Ribbon Day. Breast Cancer Awareness Month originated in America in the 1980s and has grown to be the internationally recognised month for cancer awareness. The month and Pink Ribbon Day are a time to highlight the ongoing research into breast cancer which is helping to better understand the disease and provide improvements in its detection and treatment, patient care and health outcomes for people diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that originates in the cells of the breast. The cancer develops when the cells grow abnormally and multiply. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia, with one in eight women developing breast cancer in their lifetime. This year, it is predicted 14,610 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia and, by 2020, this number will leap to 17,210. This will mean an average of 47 women being diagnosed every day. Currently, 38 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each day and, sadly, seven women will die from the disease. Early detection is the best protection against breast cancer and, the earlier the cancer is found, the more significant the increase in a woman's survival rate.

BreastScreen Australia is the national mammography screening program which advises women aged between 50 and 69 to be screened every two years. BreastScreen Australia operates in more than 500 locations throughout Australia, with fixed, relocatable and mobile screening units. National screening began in 1991, and the program has seen a significant increase in the number of women being screened. A total of 1,641,316 women were screened in 2007-08 across the nation; 78 per cent of those women were in the target age bracket of 50 to 69 years. BreastScreen Australia aims to screen 70 per cent of the target age bracket each year.

My electorate of Riverina is also fortunate to have two McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses working in the area. Sandra Royal is based at Griffith and has helped 109 women since her commencement in November 2009. Sue Munro, who is based in Wagga Wagga and started with the McGrath Foundation in April 2009, has helped 704 families. The services Sue and Sandra provide to breast cancer patients, as well as to their families and carers, are much needed and, I know, are appreciated by those they assist within the community. There are currently 77 McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses throughout Australia, providing this service free of charge, with 85 per cent of nurses located in rural and regional areas. I thank the McGrath Foundation for its outstanding work in assisting breast cancer patients in Australia.

In the Riverina, in addition to the two breast care nurses, there is the Riverina Cancer Care Centre, also run on donations and privately sourced money. The centre provides treatment to cancer patients across the spectrum and also helps to run trials. This is a fantastic service for cancer patients across the area.

Dr David Littlejohn, a leading Australian breast and oncoplastic surgeon based in Wagga Wagga, has expressed his thanks to the support offered by the McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses and the Riverina Cancer Care Centre but points out that this is all private money and there is a total lack of recognition by government of the need to provide resources to regional areas for breast cancer surgery. Dr Littlejohn also spoke about the serious lack of funding for breast cancer patients, stating: 'There is a only basic surgery available at the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and there is insufficient funding for research'. This is not a criticism from me of any side of politics—indeed, we all can and should do more. Dr Littlejohn was proud to say that, despite Wagga Wagga receiving nowhere near the same resources as teaching hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne, the surgeons and medical professionals in his region are achieving the same results. However, they would like to see more recognition of services to help to advance the treatment of breast cancer. As a leading breast cancer surgeon Dr Littlejohn believes neither patients nor physicians should be limited in treatment, research and medical funding for breast cancer because they do not live in Sydney or Melbourne.

Breast cancer is openly spoken about today, and we have seen significant medical advances in the treatment available to patients. However, women must be vigilant about self-examination and take advantage of programs such as BreastScreen Australia to help ensure early detection as the best protection. My mother, Eileen, detected soreness in a breast in August 2009, and the subsequent mammogram found a lump.

Radiotherapy followed and Mum is now in remission but has been summoned by her doctor for a visit tomorrow morning. Her sister Ellen, Sister Mary Denise of the Sisters of Mercy, died of breast cancer in her early forties in 1977. Mum was to have had the medical appointment today but deferred it to attend the funeral of Sue Cohalan, aged just 51, who died last Wednesday having suffered the effects of breast cancer. Sue was a loving mother, wife and friend to many. Breast cancer does not discriminate. It is an insidious disease. I commend the member for Shortland for this motion to raise awareness about it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The time allocated for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Cristy Houghton