Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has joined with Breast Cancer Institute (BCI) to hold an international breast cancer conference with a specific program for Australians affected by breast cancer.
Strength to Strength: Breast Cancer Network Australia's National Conference 2012 will be Australia's largest consumer breast cancer conference and the first time in Australia that health professionals, researchers and women with breast cancer will come together to listen, learn and debate the key issues in breast cancer treatment and care.
Registrations are now open for the conference, which will be held in partnership with Sydney International Breast Cancer Congress (SIBCC), on 25 and 26 October at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre in Darling Harbour.
A number of renowned international breast cancer experts travelling to Australia for SIBCC will also speak at Strength to Strength. International speakers include Professor Dame Valarie Beral of Oxford University (UK), Dr Thomas Buchholz and Dr Fraser Symmons, both of University of Texas (USA).
Maxine Morand, breast cancer survivor and BCNA CEO, said the conference will be an invaluable opportunity for both health experts and patients to empower themselves through information and networking.
"There are many ongoing health and wellbeing issues faced by women following acute treatment for breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates continue to improve, with more than 88 per cent surviving five years after diagnosis," Maxine said.
"Increased survival rates mean more Australian women in the community who have had a breast cancer experience. The long term consequences vary enormously with many women doing really well while others have significant ongoing side effects from adjuvant therapy that impact their emotional and physical wellbeing."
Maxine said because women can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available related to breast cancer, Strength to Strength will assist them to better understand breast cancer science and treatment.
"We hope health professionals will encourage their patients with breast cancer to attend Strength to Strength. The conference will provide an opportunity for women to hear world-leading authorities speak on breast cancer treatment and care, current research and life after breast cancer," Maxine said.
"Health professionals are also encouraged to attend to gain valuable insight into the diverse experiences and needs of the women they care for with breast cancer."
Australian-based speakers confirmed include medical oncologist Dr Richard de Boer, Cancer Australia CEO Dr Helen Zorbas, breast surgeon Professor Bruce Mann and medical oncologist Associate Professor Fran Boyle.
Maxine said the conference would specifically address topics BCNA members had told the network were important to them, along with opportunities to network and socialise. Sessions will cover topics such as:
Lifestyle factors and breast cancer outcomes
New directions in breast cancer treatment
Family history of breast cancer: myth busting and facts
Physical activity and breast cancer
Menopause and hormone therapy
Relationships with partners, family and friends
Managing the fear of recurrence
A joint session between SIBCC and Strength to Strength will close the conference with speakers from both conferences debating effective care.
Visit www.bcna.org.au to register for the conference, view the latest programme and find out further information. Alternatively you can call BCNA on 1800 500 258 (freecall).
Strength to Strength: Breast Cancer Network Australia National Conference 2012
Date: 25-26 October 2012
Venue: Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre Darling Harbour, Sydney
Early-bird registration: $200 until 23 August 2012
Full registration: $250 from 24 August 2012
Registration deadline: 22 October 2012
NOTE: registration for the BCNA National Conference does not include access to the Sydney International Breast Cancer Congress.
For further information please visit: www.bcna.org.au/events/bcna-conferences/national-conference-2012
Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is the peak national organisation for Australians personally affected by breast cancer, and consists of a network of more than 70,000 individual members and 300 Member Groups. BCNA informs, empowers, represents and links together women and families affected by breast cancer. BCNA works to ensure that women diagnosed with breast cancer, and their families, receive the very best information, treatment, care and support possible.
Maxine Morand is the CEO of Breast Cancer Network Australia
Question: What will happen at the upcoming Strength to Strength: Breast Cancer Network Australia's National Conference 2012?
Maxine Morand: Strength to Strength: Breast Cancer Network Australia's National Conference 2012 will be Australia's largest consumer breast cancer conference with health professionals, researchers and women with breast cancer coming together to listen, learn and debate the key issues in breast cancer treatment and care.
Strength to Strength will be held in partnership with Westmead Breast Cancer Institute at theSydney International Breast Cancer Congress (SIBCC). A number of international breast cancer experts travelling to Australia for SIBCC will also speak at Strength to Strength. The conference is a chance for Australian women with breast cancer to hear world-leading authorities speak on breast cancer treatment and care, current research and life after breast cancer.
Question: Who is the Strength to Strength: Breast Cancer Network Australia's National Conference 2012 specifically for?
Maxine Morand: Strength to Strength has been designed especially for women who have experienced breast cancer. Health professionals, partners, friends and family are also welcome to attend. It will also be a fantastic opportunity for women to meet and network with others who have gone through a similar experience. The program covers a diverse range of subjects that we know have a significant impact on the lives of people with breast cancer.
Question: What are some of the key issues in breast cancer treatment?
Maxine Morand: Breast cancer is a complex disease with many different types. This means each woman will have an individual treatment plan tailored especially for her by her medical team. Some women will have a lumpectomy - where the tumour is removed from the breast - while others will undergo a mastectomy or double mastectomy. For some women, chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy will be recommended, while others will undergo radiation therapy alone following surgery. The majority of women will take hormone therapy for quite some time following active treatment - generally up to five years. For women who have had their breast/s removed via mastectomy, they will need to decide whether to have a breast reconstruction or use breast prosthesis. Talking through all these different options with your medical team is very important so you can make the right decision.
Question: What are some of the key issues for women with breast cancer?
Maxine Morand: Understanding their diagnosis and treatments offered
What are my options?
How will treatment affect me?
What will happen when active treatment stops?
What are the long term side effects of treatment?
How do I emotionally adjust to being diagnosed and treated for cancer?
Question: Are you able to give us a brief insight into the new directions in breast cancer treatment?
Maxine Morand: One of the main developments in breast cancer research and treatment is the understanding that breast cancer is not just one but many different and complex diseases. Recent studies have indicated that breast cancer might be up to 10 different diseases and we are slowly coming to learn about these different types - such as hormone positive or triple negative breast cancer. This means treatment is becoming more individualised and better tailored to suit the woman and her own diagnosis. New drugs are in clinical trial and under development.
Question: Breast cancer survival rates continue to improve; why do you believe this percentage will continue to grow?
Maxine Morand: Better treatment and management of breast cancer means more women living longer after a breast cancer diagnosis. Currently almost 90 per cent of women survive 5 years after diagnosis, and this continues to improve. It is hard to know how much more improvement can be achieved. The greatest challenge is in successfully treating women whose cancer has already spread to another part of their body. This called secondary or advanced disease and the prognosis for these women is worse than when the disease is confined to the breast. It is estimated at least 140,000 Australian women are living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Question: Can you talk about the importance of family history in regards to breast cancer? What methods do daughters and granddaughter need to take?
Maxine Morand: Only a small number, less than 5%, of women diagnosed with breast cancer actually have any family history of breast cancer. For families with a strong family history, particularly a genetic mutation such as BRCA 1 or 2, it is important to be especially vigilant. For women who do not have a family history of breast cancer, a diagnosis in the family should not cause unnecessary worry or alarm but instead serve as an important reminder to be breast aware. Younger women should regularly self-examine their breasts and women over 50 should undergo regular mammograms.
Question: What are the main challenges faced by women with breast cancer and their families?
Maxine Morand: No woman's experience of breast cancer is the same, and they all face shock at diagnosis and different challenges. Location and physical isolation is a big problem - women from remote and regional Australia face additional challenges being distanced from treatment and support. Financial challenges are of course significant for many women and their families and a breast cancer diagnosis will always result in physical challenges throughout treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation. However for most women and families one of the greatest challenges is navigating and understanding the breast cancer journey and this is why it is so important they are provided with information and emotional support. Fear of recurrence can also be an ongoing issue for some women.
Question: How does Breast Cancer Network Australia help manage these challenges?
Maxine Morand: Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) provides information and support to Australians affected by breast cancer and their families. We regularly hold information forums on breast cancer around Australia, especially regional Australia. Last year more than 2,000 people attended our forums. Our website is a fantastic source of information for newly diagnosed women and their loved ones. Our Online Network provides a place for women to connect with other women going through a similar experience. Our website also includes a Local Services Directory featuring services in communities around Australia recommended by others with breast cancer. We distribute resources to women following diagnosis to support them on their journey, such as the My Journey Kit and the My Care Kit for women who have just undergone breast surgery.
Question: Why is your job, important to you?
Maxine Morand: Connecting and supporting women who have a shared experience and have faced the challenge of breast cancer is really satisfying. I have a background in health, research and politics and was diagnosed myself last year with breast cancer so I believe I can contribute in the sector in an informed and meaningful way.
Question: What advice would you give the family of a woman who has recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
Maxine Morand: Most women diagnosed with breast cancer want simple things from their family - listen, let her know you care and help out in practical ways. A diagnosis of breast cancer comes as a huge shock and it's important for the woman to have people she can talk to, when she is ready. Just listening and being there is the most important thing you can do. Family and friends are often a welcome distraction, so try and find opportunities to have a laugh or have some fun. It'll be important for her to know that life goes on. Helping out where you can will make a huge difference - offer to pick up chores, cook dinner, volunteer to do tasks that she normally takes care of. Breast cancer treatment is physically and emotionally draining and help around the home will be gratefully appreciated. Lifts to and from treatment may be helpful and ensure there are positive and fun things to look forward to.
Question: What advice would you give to a woman, recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
Maxine Morand: Information is crucial -understanding your treatment options and knowing what kind of questions to ask your doctors so you feel in control of your care. BCNA's website is a fantastic source of information for newly diagnosed women. Talk to other women who have experienced breast cancer - whether it be someone you know or someone you've met through BCNA's Online Network. Don't be afraid to voice your concerns or questions to your medical team - they are here to help. Every woman's experience is different and what might suit another woman may not work for you. And most importantly, don't try to be superwoman and pretend everything's fine. Accept offers of assistance and support. Your health needs to be your number one priority.
Interview by Brooke Hunter