Australia Speaks! The results from Research Australia's 2014 Opinion Poll

Dr Andrew Redfern

Each year Research Australia conducts a public opinion poll on Australians' views of health and medical research, science, preventative health initiatives and philanthropy for such research.

We are very excited by the results which show Australians continued commitment to research, something we see every day, and an understanding of how research is linked to their own health and wellbeing.

Some of the key results from the survey are:

  • up to 85% of respondents would consent to their tissue samples being used in research
  • 85% of respondents believe that improving and the health care system should be the key priority. This has consistently ranked as the number one issue over the last ten years
  • 73% of respondents supported additional federal funding being directed to health and medical research
  • 40% of regular donors say they are less likely to donate if government plans to increase funding goes ahead

To read the full report, click here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer awareness has come a long way since 68 year-old Charlotte Haley first started sending out her peach coloured hand-made ribbons in 1991. Each set of five ribbons was sent out with a card saying "The National Cancer Institute's annual budget is 1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up legislators and America by wearing this ribbon."

It was only when Estee Lauder turned the ribbon pink in 1992 and handed out 1.5 million ribbons through their make-up counters, each with a card describing a proper breast self-exam, that things really took off.

In 1994, when the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) was formed in Australia, 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer passed away. In less than 20 years, this figure has halved. This is mainly thanks to the incredible work of Australian and international researchers who work tirelessly to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer.

While so much has been achieved there is still one group in the breast cancer community who feel forgotten - those living with advanced cancer. By raising awareness about the difficulties faced by those living with advanced cancer, and driving more research into metastasis (when cancer spreads, and the main cause of death from breast cancer), we can ensure that future generations need not know the isolation and fear faced by thousands of women (and a fair few men too) each year.

In the words of NBCF CEO, Carole Renouf, "We can acknowledge that pink can have many shades, some lighter, some darker, but all the same colour. And that not all Pink Ribbon stories will have a happy ending, but they all deserve to be told."

To get involved this October and help the National Breast Cancer Foundation achieve its aspirational goal of zero deaths from breast cancer, click here to find a pink ribbon event near you.

Recent results - recruitment

Thank you to all our members who were eligible and able to participate in projects over the last few months. We have had a significant increase in projects recently and greatly appreciate the support and understanding all our members have shown during this period of growth. We constantly hear from researchers how much it means to them to know there is a whole community of people out there just waiting to help. It makes us feel so proud knowing our members are making such a difference to research!

Some of the fantastic results that you have made possible include:

  • over 1,100 members registered their interest for the online questionnaire studies, Personal Change Following Cancer or Heart Disease and the control study Personal Change Following Life Stresses or Hassles. The research team advised this would have taken 12–15 months to find this many participants using traditional recruitment methods.  
  • our first prostate cancer project successfully recruited over 60 men to take part in the survey. With only 4% of our members being men, we were amazed at the response and this made a real difference to help boost recruitment for the project. Keep your eyes open for our upcoming project for male and female partners of men with prostate cancer.
  • we have had over 140 members register for the project Women’s Health after Surgical Menopause (WHAM). This is an incredible result for a project that requires site visits over a 24 month period and has left the research team in awe of your generosity.
Project update - Cancer and Fertility

In June, some preliminary results from the Cancer and Fertility Study being led by Professor Jane Ussher from the University of Western Sydney, were presented at the annual meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Children's Oncology Group in Sydney. This presentation led to an article in The Australian newspaper on the importance of providing young adults with cancer information on their fertility risk and the options available to them. You can read the full article here.

The first journal article to come from the study: Young Women's Construction of their Post-Cancer Fertility has just been published in the latest issue of Psychology and Health, an online peer reviewed journal promoting the study and application of psychological approaches to health and illness.

This project will soon move to a new phase but is still recruiting till the end of the year. The researchers are especially looking for men who have or have had cancer or are the intimate partner of someone with cancer. If you have not already participated and would like more information please click here.

Projects still recruiting 

The Effect of Timed Therapy in Patients with Advanced Melanoma - This is an exciting clinical trial in the Adelaide area that is using a vaccine in the treatment of advanced melanoma that is seeing very encouraging results. The immune system of each cancer patient seems to be repeatedly switching 'on' and 'off' causing an oscillation or cycle. Part of the success of this treatment appears to be due to the 'timing' of therapy in coordination with these fluctuations.
More info

Breast Edema & Exercise Trial (BEET) - This project represents the first step in the development of a national research program to investigate the benefits of exercise to improve symptoms for women with breast lymphoedema (chronic swelling in the breast region). The project is looking for women in the Sydney or Brisbane areas who have developed breast lymphoedema following treatment for breast cancer. More info

Women's Health After Surgical Menopause - This project is looking to recruit women in the Sydney or Melbourne area who are aged 18-50 and are either low risk (no family history or genetic predisposition) or at an increased risk of ovarian or breast cancer because of their family history or because they have been diagnosed as carriers of the BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations (high risk). More info

Monitoring the Effectiveness of the Australian Cervical Cancer Vaccination Program - The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of the Australian cervical vaccination program. This project requires women 18-25 years old who live in Victoria and have NOT received the HPV (cervical cancer) vaccine. More info

Hereditary Cancer Clinic Consumer Review

The Hereditary Cancer Clinic is currently conducting a consumer review to see if the factsheets and letters they are using are easy to read and understand. Gentic Counselling and Family Cancer Clinics provide counselling and information for families with a history of cancer on:

  • inheriting genetic faults that can make certain cancers more likely
  • individual risk
  • screening
  • cancer risk reduction stratagies

They also provide genetic testing where appropriate. If you would like to take part in this consumer review, email Sian Greening at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.