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Health professionals

Every day in Australia, around 65 women are told they have breast or a gynaecological cancer we wanted to share with all West Australians, 10 things every woman needs to know about cancer. 

1. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, but not the most common cause of cancer death – that’s lung cancer.

So if you smoke, now is the time to quit! Quitting smoking not only reduces your risk of lung cancer, but could also prevent 15 other types of cancer too. For more information on smoking and cancer, or resources to help you quit, visit our Make Smoking History website.

2. Bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.

But there is a lot you can do to prevent it:
– Get screened for bowel cancer using the kit sent to you in the mail
– Eat a variety of healthy foods
– Be a healthy weight
– Avoid alcohol, or if you do choose to drink, limit your alcohol intake
– Be active everyday

For tips on eating healthy, losing weight and being active, visit our LiveLighter website.

3. Be SunSmart – avoid the ravages of ageing by avoiding UV when it’s over 3.

UV radiation not only causes ageing, but is also responsible for three types of skin cancer, including malignant melanomas. Download Cancer Council’s free SunSmart app that tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location.

4. On 1 December 2017, the Pap smear was replaced with the new Cervical Screening Test.

If you are 25 to 74 years old, have a cervix and have ever been sexually active, you should have a Cervical Screening Test. This includes people who identify as lesbian or transgender as well as those who have had the HPV vaccination. For most women your first Cervical Screening Test will be two years after your last Pap Smear test. Find out more.

5. The HPV vaccination can protect against a number of women’s cancers

Including 90% of cervical cancers, 65% of vaginal cancers and 50% of vulva cancers, and also anal and oral cancers. It can also protect against 90% of genital warts cases. The HPV vaccination is not only important for women – it can also protect against 90% of all HPV-related cancers in men. The vaccination is free for West Australian girls and boys in Year 8 as part of the National Immunisation Program.

6. Know the symptoms of gynaecological cancers.

These are the cancers that only affect women, so all women should be aware of them. Symptoms that may be caused by gynaecological cancers include:

  • abnormal or persistent vaginal bleeding – for example, bleeding after menopause, bleeding that i not part of menstrual periods, or bleeding after sex
  • abnormal vaginal discharge (blood, pus or other discharge)
  • pain, pressure or discomfort in the lower abdomen (tummy)
  • swelling of the lower abdomen
  • change in bowel or bladder habits
  • pain during sex or when peeing
  • changes to the vulva like itching, burning or soreness
  • any new lumps, soreness or swelling, or a mole on the vulva that changed shape or colour.

7. Breast cancer screening, using mammograms, can find breast cancers early – before they have a chance to spread.

This gives women more treatment options and a better chance of survival. If you are 50-74 years of age you’ll be invited to participate in the free breast screening program. If you’re 40-49 or over 74 you’ll need to make a call to BreastcreenWA to book. It’s good to speak to your doctor beforehand to make sure breast cancer screening is right for you.

8. When thinking about your family history, look at both your mum and you dad’s side of the family.

Faulty genes make up about 5% of breast cancer cases in Australia, but they can be passed on by either parent.

9. Physical activity is proven to lower women’s risk of many types of cancers.

But new national research has shown that Western Australian women are the least likely of all states to get enough physical activity. Simple and easy ways to incorporate more exercise into your life include:

  • get off public transport a few stops earlier and walk
  • take the stairs instead of the lift
  • instead of sitting to spectate at a sporting activity, do a lap around the court
  • catch up with friends while going for a walk, rather than sitting in a café

For more expert, fact-based tips to improve your overall health, please visit our LiveLighter website.

10. Australia has been at the forefront of cervical cancer prevention for decades.

Cancer Council research, funded by community donations, helped inform the significant changes to the Cervical Screening Test in 2017, which is expected to reduce cancer cases and deaths by up to 30% by 2035.