Cancer and women
Clearinghouse Connector – April 2017
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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:
- Amanda Piper – Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre
- Kate Broun – Cancer Council Victoria
- Vicky Thursfield – Victorian Cancer Registry
- Carole Arbuckle – Cancer Council Victoria
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
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
Can gender play a role in determining cancer treatment choices? Oncology News Australia, 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]
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
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
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
- 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. ↩
- Cancer Council Victoria (2015). Cancer Statistics Victoria : Time Trends by Sex : Cancer Trends, Victoria (Incidence). Cancer Council Victoria. Accessed on 07/04/2017. ↩
- Cancer Council Victoria (2016). Cancer in Victoria : statistics and trends 2015. Cancer Council Victoria, p. 28. Accessed on 07/04/2017. ↩
- Cancer Council Victoria (2016). Cancer in Victoria : statistics and trends 2015*. Cancer Council Victoria, p. 30. Accessed on 07/04/2017. ↩
- 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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