Cancer and women

Clearinghouse Connector – April 2017


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Overview

In Australia, cancer deaths comprise 27% of all female causes of death, and 36% of female years of life lost.1 According to the Victorian Cancer Registry2, the cancers with the highest incidence in Victorian women are breast cancer, followed by bowel cancer, melanoma, then lung cancer. The Victorian cancer plan 2016–2020 provides the current Victorian context for cancer care and control.

The gendered experience of women diagnosed with any type of cancer needs greater research and consideration. While female breast cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 94%,3 many other cancers have significantly lower 5-year survival rates (colorectal 69%, ovarian 42% and lung 20%).4

Risk factors, screening, prevention and health promotion messages should all be examined through a gender lens to ensure that strategies in each of these areas are targeted to the needs and experiences of women.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment can have specific impacts for women that relate to gender. Caring responsibilities, the impact on body image, reproduction and menopause, sexuality and relationships and financial considerations are all issues that can affect women’s diagnosis, treatment and long-term outlook. Research also suggests that the psychological implications of cancer are greater for women, and that psychosocial support is integral to women’s wellbeing and outcomes.

Cancer risk increases with age. An ageing and growing population is leading to increasing cancer diagnoses. This coupled with increasing survival following cancer diagnosis and treatment is resulting in more women living in the ‘survivorship’ phase which follows diagnosis and active treatment. This means that risk reduction and wellbeing strategies such as healthy weight management and exercise are becoming more important factors in wellbeing following cancer.

Some cancers among women have known means of prevention and/or early detection which can be applied to reduce incidence and mortality.5 Cancer policies and strategies would be strengthened by the inclusion of gender-specific content, informed by research into the risks, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment responses and lived experience of women with non-reproductive cancers.


WHV thanks the following expert reviewers for their input:


Incidence and context in Australia

Lung cancer rates in Australian women on track to surpass men by 2017 Cancer Council NSW, 2015

Bowel cancer deaths set to rise in women Bowel Cancer Australia, 2015

A men’s disease myth : two in three underestimate the risk of bowel cancer for women, survey suggests Sydney Morning Herald, 2016

Skin cancer incidence and mortality In: Skin cancer statistics and issues Cancer Council, 2016 – see section 2.1 Gender


Risk factors

Women and cancer : your guide to reducing your risk of cancer Cancer Council NSW, 2015

Get checked : women Cancer Council Australia, 2016

Sex- and gender-specific disparities in colorectal cancer risk World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2015

Women’s awareness of cancer symptoms: a review of the literature Women’s Health, 2012

Passion for tans pushing up skin cancer rates for women Sunshine Coast Daily, 2016


Screening and diagnosis

Gender differences in attitudes impeding colorectal cancer screening BMC Public Health, 2013

More boys are diagnosed with cancer than girls worldwide : why? The Conversation, 2016

Earlier diagnosis of bladder cancer could improve survival rates in women Public Health England, 2015

Colorectal cancer in women [Case Study] Sex and Gender Women’s Health Collaborative, 2016


Sexual and reproductive health

Fertility after breast cancer and strategies to help women achieve pregnancy Cancer Forum (Cancer Council Australia), 2017

Fertility preservation : a key survivorship issue for young women with cancer Frontiers in Oncology, 2016

Sexual dysfunction after breast cancer : a review of treatments and strategies Cancer Forum (Cancer Council Australia), 2017

Perceived causes and consequences of sexual changes after cancer for women and men : a mixed method study BMC Cancer, 2015. [Australia]

Feeling well and talking about sex : psycho-social predictors of sexual functioning after cancer BMC Cancer, 2014. [Australia]

Sexual health as a survivorship issue for female cancer survivors The Oncologist, 2013

Sexuality, lung cancer, and the older adult : an unlikely trio? Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology, 2013

Psychological correlates of sexual dysfunction in female rectal and anal cancer survivors : analysis of baseline intervention data Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2013


Therapy

Can gender play a role in determining cancer treatment choices? Oncology News Australia, 2016

Females suffer from gender gap in cancer trials, drug development Newsweek, 2016

Gender disparity in survival from bladder cancer [Transcript] ABC Radio National, 2015

The gender perspective in cancer research and therapy: novel insights and on-going hypotheses Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 2016


Living with cancer

4 women share what it’s like to have colon cancer Women’s Health, 2015

My year of lung cancer, pictured day by day : woman diagnosed with disease documents her journey Daily Mail Australia, 2014

Cancer, work and you : a guide for people with cancer, their families and friends Cancer Council NSW, 2017


Mental health / Body image

Anxiety and depression in women with breast cancer Cancer Forum (Cancer Council Australia), 2017

Psychosocial and psychological challenges facing women diagnosed with cancer [Thesis] Winona State University, 2016

Lives affected by cancer : 800 women speak Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA), 2011

Life after diagnosis and treatment of cancer in adulthood : contributions from psychosocial oncology research American Psychologist, 2015. [USA]


Advanced cancer

Does gender influence outcomes from a multidisciplinary intervention for quality of life designed for patients with advanced cancer? Supportive Care In Cancer, 2013


Long term outcomes

Life after lung cancer: survivorship research and behavioral intervention are needed World Cancer Research Journal, 2014

Report on lung cancer in Australia : literature review and consultation on factors impacting on lung cancer outcomes Cancer Australia. National Lung Cancer Program, 2011.


Media portrayal / Public opinion

‘It’s your fault you got cancer’: the blame game that doesn’t help anyone The Conversation, 2016

Does lung cancer have a gender bias? Huffington Post, 2016

Lung cancer rates soaring for women after tobacco manufacturers target them by saying smoking helps you stay slim Daily Mail Australia, 2012


Policy and promising practice

Victorian cancer plan 2016-2020 Victoria. Department of Health, 2016

Optimal Care Pathways [Series] Cancer Council Victoria, 2014-2016

Model of survivorship care: critical components of cancer survivorship care in Australia Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA), 2016


Related websites

BreaCan

Cancer Council Victoria

Cancer Council Australia

Cancer Council Australia LGBTI communities and cancer support

American Lung Association Lung Force (for women)

Macmillan Cancer Support Effects of treatment on a woman’s sexuality

Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre Support for survivors


Footnotes

  1. AIHW (2016). Australian burden of disease study : impact and causes of illness and deaths in Australia 2011. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Accessed on 07/04/2017.
  2. Cancer Council Victoria (2015). Cancer Statistics Victoria : Time Trends by Sex : Cancer Trends, Victoria (Incidence). Cancer Council Victoria. Accessed on 07/04/2017.
  3. Cancer Council Victoria (2016). Cancer in Victoria : statistics and trends 2015. Cancer Council Victoria, p. 28. Accessed on 07/04/2017.
  4. Cancer Council Victoria (2016). Cancer in Victoria : statistics and trends 2015*. Cancer Council Victoria, p. 30. Accessed on 07/04/2017.
  5. American Cancer Society (2016). Global burden of cancer in women : current status, trends, and interventions. American Cancer Society, p. 104. Accessed on 07/04/2017.

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