In the opinion of a leading cancer specialist, the wide public attention that breast cancer awareness campaigns garner may not be such a good thing after all. The high-profile campaigns are diverting attention from other types of cancers deadly to women.
The breast cancer lobby's 'pink steamroller' has diverted public awareness and funding from ovarian cancer and is contributing to the disease's low survival rates, Orla McNally at the Royal Women's Hospital says.
McNally says that recent figures in the medical journal The Lancet have shown Victorian women with ovarian cancer were less likely to survive than those in other Australian states and countries.
"We have a massive breast cancer charity lobby in this country, which acts as a bit of a 'pink steamroller' to the other cancer sites, and that is something that impacts on our ability to increase awareness about ovarian cancer and to get more women the treatment that they need for this disease," the Age quoted McNally, as saying.
While acknowledging ovarian cancer was more difficult to detect than breast cancer and has no screening test, she said the "vast difference" in public profile and charitable support given to the two diseases played a part in survival rates.
Forty-three per cent of Victorian women with ovarian cancer are alive after five years compared with a national average of 49 per cent, and 54 per cent in Canada and Britain.
Survival rates for Australian women with breast cancer are among the best in the world, with 91 per cent alive after five years.
"You can't dress up ovarian cancer. Your tits are in your face so it [breast cancer] is a very out-there topic. The majority of women with the disease go on to survive and talk about it and lobby for it. The majority of women with ovarian cancer die within five years, and usually for the last two of those years they're too unwell to be out there lobbying for it," said McNally.