Breast cancer in the family - what does that mean for me?

Angelina Jolie




Actress Angelina Jolie’s recent public comments about her decision to undergo a prophylactic (preventive) double mastectomy resulted in a 1033% increase in enquiries to Cancer Council Victoria’s Helpline. Similar increases were experienced by a range of support services across Australia.

In response to increased community concern, the Cancer Council will host a free national webinar ‘Breast cancer in the family- What does that mean for me?’ on Tuesday 25th June 7.30pm – 8.30pm.

Although breast cancer is common in Australia, only 5-10% of cases are linked to known genetic factors.

However Mary-Anne Young, Senior Genetic Counsellor at Peter MacCallum Familial Cancer Centre, said this sort of statistic didn’t relay the anxieties of many women, especially if they have a history of breast cancer in their family.

Ms Young, who is the webinar guest speaker, said: “Providing women with the opportunity to ask questions, and access to information about what they can do to reduce their cancer risk is invaluable. We hope this webinar will reduce unnecessary anxiety we have seen in patients since Ms Jolie’s announcement, and provide women with the resources of where to go next if genetic testing is an option. The fact they can do this from the comfort of their own home is a bonus.”

Mel Davis, who was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumour at age 24, has experienced the benefits webinars can provide, and encourages anyone with questions to log on.

A report released yesterday by Cancer Council Victoria indicated that 72% of respondents surveyed would first look online to find information about cancer, an increase of 9% since the 2010 survey.

“Online support is an important area of growth for Cancer Council Victoria. We want to provide a range of support options that allow people touched by cancer to pick and choose what they want to access, whenever they need it and however is most convenient,” said CEO Todd Harper.

He said this sort of event was particularly helpful for those in regional areas where local services could be limited or over-burdened.

“If someone has access to a telephone or internet they can take part which is a shift away from the traditional ways we have delivered support in the past. It is about responding to the needs of our cancer community.”

For more information, or to register, call the Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20. Alternatively, register online via