Pink Hope will tonight premiere Australia's first cinema launch of a documentary - 'Beyond the Diagnosis: Confronting Triple Negative Breast Cancer’ - exposing the plight of the lives of those impacted.
According to Pink Hope CEO Sarah Powell, the documentary launch is an opportunity to raise a conversation on an uncomfortable truth regarding breast cancer.
“Because of strong awareness activities and powerful advocacy in this country over the last decade, thankfully, breast cancer survivorship and support has improved exponentially. The unfortunate byproduct of these inroads, however, is that many – including Australian political decision-makers – believe the job on breast cancer is done.
“The fact remains that those living with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, in particular, face a prognosis akin to other known and deadly cancers.”
Triple-negative accounts for approximately 15 per cent of Australia's 20,000 breast cancer diagnoses every year. It is known for being particularly aggressive, is prevalent in younger women, and has poorer clinical outcomes as shown by higher relapse rates and lower survival rates.
The documentary focuses on the personal toll of the disease, with a focus on Susan, Keely, and Rhiannon.
Susan was initially diagnosed in 2020 with stage 2b triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) while she was five months pregnant with baby number five. In February 2023, (with baby number six only one-month-old), she was diagnosed with a TNBC reoccurrence, which had spread to her lungs, ribs, bones, liver, and pelvis.
Keely, 35, first found a lump when five months pregnant. She carries the BRCA1 gene, which predisposes her to breast cancer. It was only after the birth of her newborn that she acted on the lump and was told she had advanced, metastatic TNBC, and was facing just 12 months of life expectancy. In a twist of fate, Keely’s metastasise was eventually attributed to a rare autoimmune condition known as sarcoidosis, not TNBC, which mimics cancer under the PET scan.
Rhiannon, 35, a mum of three, wants other women living with TNBC to know they are not alone. She seeks to create lasting change to ensure TNBC is granted the same number of treatments and funding as other breast cancer types, and to ensure women remain vigilant to the early warning signs. She also wants to raise awareness of the hidden costs of the condition. From paying for wigs, and childcare, to surgery and prosthetics, the financial burden of TNBC is far greater than the direct costs of treating the condition.
TNBC is also more likely to recur within two to three years of diagnosis, as opposed to 10 to 15 years for those with oestrogen receptor–positive breast cancer. Early detection is, therefore, vital. Moreover, around 20 per cent of metastatic breast cancers are triple negative.
Ms Powell said, “TNBC is a brutal condition that strips families of loved ones, and which wreaks a wave of lesser-known devastation, from psycho-socio, to mental, to economic. It is incumbent on all Australians to recognise the seriousness of the condition, to ensure we’re better placed to be able to recognise the early warning signs, have a conversation about familial risk, and to ensure our healthcare system is appropriately placed to support those living with advanced, complex disease.
“We must continue to ensure we’re investing in preventative and treatment strategies for metastatic breast cancer. That is what tonight’s documentary aims to achieve, fronted by three incredible women who are bravely telling their stories – often in excruciating detail and through tears of pain and heartbreak – to ensure their legacy lasts, and to prevent other families from experiencing the same heartbreak.
the treatment pathways available for those living with TNBC, whilst shining a light on the hidden economic, mental, and physical impact of the disease.
“Importantly, the film raises a spotlight on a targeted group within our community who often feel left overshadowed by other better-known breast cancer types.”
Unlike the five-year survival rate for all breast cancers, which is around 92 per cent, those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer have just a 32 per cent chance of surviving more than five years.
Pink Hope is also calling for the creation of a national genetic testing registry.
Women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation are more likely to develop breast cancer, including TNBC, at a younger age and develop metastatic breast cancer.Despite the burden of hereditary-linked breast cancer and the growth in awareness about genetic testing, no national database currently exists regarding genetic testing rates.