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Monash University women's health program

With breast cancer research generally concentrating on cause, diagnosis and treatment, quality-of-life issues for survivors are often overlooked. With the support of the Bupa Health Foundation, however, researchers from Monash University commenced a pioneering study in 2008 looking at the physical, psychological and socio-economic consequences of breast cancer.

Professor Susan Davis, Director of the Women’s Health Research Program at Monash University, has noticed a distinct change among the women she has seen in her work as a practising endocrinologist over the past two decades. “As survivorship has increased more women are presenting with concerns ranging from bone loss and menopausal symptoms, through to depression, sexual dysfunction and relationship issues,” she explains.

The dearth of information on quality-of-life issues facing women after breast cancer therapy led her to Monash University’s Associate Professor Robin Bell. Together they set up the Bupa Health Foundation Health & Wellbeing after Breast Cancer Study, the largest study of its kind in Australia, which has been following more than 1,600 Victorian women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The study is already offering valuable insights into health and quality-of-life issues for women three to five years after breast cancer diagnosis. It recently revealed that a breast cancer diagnosis had very little impact on women’s pattern of smoking and alcohol consumption, with an alarming two out of every three who were cigarette smokers continuing with the habit two years later and alcohol consumption remaining static.

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   Breast cancer survivor, Anne Chartres (right) with her sister