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Busting 3 Breast Cancer Myths with the CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month unfolds, the Unprocessed podcast had the privilege of diving deep into the subject with National Breast Cancer Foundation Australia’s Cleola Anderiesz. The medical expert highlighted a number of stubborn myths around the disease, while sharing the importance of community engagement in the battle against breast cancer.

Cleola is a prominent leader in the field of health with a remarkable career spanning over two decades. Her diverse background includes experiences in the academic, not-for-profit, and public sectors. With a wealth of qualifications, including degrees in science and health economics, a PhD, a Senior Executive MBA, and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, it’s an understatement to say Cleola is a respected figure in the fields of health and research. Her journey began in the realm of medical research, where she made significant contributions to the field of reproductive biology – now, she’s designed and implemented Australia's first national collaborative cancer research scheme, uniting 13 organisations to co-fund over 300 national cancer research projects, bringing together resources and minds to further the cause.

“I feel incredibly privileged to have been appointed as the CEO with quite a sort of diverse range of experience,” she says.

But Cleola says we’ve got a long way to go – let’s find out how she’s tackling the obstacles in the way of a cancer-free future, one at a time, plus we’ll be unveiling a few myths around breast cancer.

Myth 1: Only Women Get Breast Cancer

Cleola shared with Unprocessed hosts Clara and Grace the importance of recognising that breast cancer is not limited to women – while it predominantly affects women, men can also be diagnosed with this disease. Cleola emphasises the importance of awareness around one's body, regardless of gender, as early detection and intervention can save lives. 

“It’s a scary cancer for women in particular, and breast cancer for men should be spoken about more and more so that people are aware of the risks,” Cleola says.

Myth 2: Young Women Don’t Get Breast Cancer

An eye-opening moment was the discussion around breast cancer diagnoses among in young women, with Cleola revealing a shocking 1,000 women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Australia – and that number is only set to rise with our poor diets, sedentary lifestyles and high stress rates. This underscores the growing concern and highlights the need for research focused on this age group, not to mention the need for greater awareness around symptoms and tests.

“So just this year alone, we've provided an additional 12 million dollars to support 16 new breast cancer research projects across Australia,” Cleola says. “And those research projects including some really game changing projects which are investigating things like why young women get breast cancer.”

Myth 3: Breast Cancer Has Enough Funding

While there has been significant progress in reducing breast cancer deaths in Australia, the battle is far from over. With nine people succumbing to breast cancer every day, more funding for research is vital. Cleola emphasises that government funding and community support are still insufficient to fully combat this disease.

NBCF has been at the forefront of breast cancer research, investing over $200 million into more than 600 research projects in Australia, contributing to a remarkable 40% reduction in the death rate from breast cancer. New research projects funded by NBCF are exploring critical areas such as understanding breast cancer in young women, with a central mission to achieve zero deaths. An ambitious goal, yes, but we edge closer to it with every improvement made. Breast cancer awareness is strong in Australia, but despite the significant awareness campaigns, more funding is needed to address this disease comprehensively. Government funding and community support can make a tremendous difference - if you wish to make a donation, you can do so HERE.

The conversation with Cleola Anderiesz is a reminder that breast cancer affects us all. It calls for vigilance, research and commitment. NBCF is taking great strides in this direction, and this interview sheds light on the urgency of funding and research in the quest for a breast cancer-free future. To dive deeper into this critical topic and learn more about NBCF's vision and efforts, we encourage you to listen to the Unprocessed podcast episode with Cleola – it's an essential conversation for anyone who values life, health and the hope for a world without breast cancer. Join the cause, spread awareness, and be part of the journey toward zero deaths from this devastating disease. 

The Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer 

Over 2 million women are diagnosed around the globe every year, with many in the late stages, so while we’re here talking about breast cancer, we thought it was pertinent to include the symptoms to look out for. While these symptoms do not always indicate breast cancer, they should be promptly evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the cause. Some common signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

Breast Lump or Thickening: A new lump or mass in the breast or underarm area is a common symptom of breast cancer. It may feel different from the surrounding breast tissue and may or may not be painful.

Changes in Breast Size or Shape: Any unexplained changes in breast size or shape, such as swelling or distortion, should be assessed by a healthcare provider. 

Nipple Changes: Changes in the nipple, such as inversion (turning inward), redness, scaling, or discharge (other than breast milk), may indicate a potential issue. 

Skin Changes: Redness, dimpling, or puckering of the breast skin, resembling an orange peel, could be a sign of breast cancer.

Breast Pain: While breast pain is a common symptom, it is rarely associated with breast cancer. But persistent or localised pain should be evaluated as it could be a sign.

Unexplained Swelling: Swelling in part or all of the breast, even without a lump, should be examined by a healthcare professional.

Enlarged Lymph Nodes: Lumps in the underarm area or above the collarbone could indicate the spread of breast cancer to nearby lymph nodes.

If you’ve noticed any of these signs, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor – early intervention can be the difference between life and death.

Keen to learn more about breast cancer with Cleola? Check out the latest episode of the Unprocessed podcast HERE.

Head on over to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Australia for everything you need to know about the condition.

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