We’re all guilty of it, getting so caught up in daily life that we tend to favour urgent priorities over important ones.
The thing is the important issues such as taking control of our health are often, well, pushed down the to do list. This is where I step in and urge you to make a pinky promise during the month of May to bring cancer prevention and detection straight to the top of your list and reduce your chances of becoming another statistic. Simple promises such as drinking less alcohol, exercising regularly, eating healthier, quit smoking, having regular screenings and investigating your history is all it takes. Who knows, make a pinky promise and you could be jetsetting off to New York with thanks to Emma & Roe by Michael Hill who are donating the trip.
A Pinky Promise is about taking control of your health. It’s a journey that starts today but it’s not one you have to take alone. You and your BFF will make a promise and learn about the facts and the myths of prevention and detection of cancer. Choose a BFF and make them a Pinky Promise to take control of your health. Like a boot camp buddy, your BFF will be there to support you or give you a push when it comes to detection and prevention of cancer.
To explain things better, Ironmum Karla spoke exclusively with founder of Pinky Promise and Pink Hope, Krystal Barter what Pinky Promise is all about.
IMK : What is pinky promise and why is it so important for women?
Krystal: We wanted to create something that would really inspire people to think about their health and the preventative steps they can take to reduce the risk of becoming another cancer statistic.
The World Health Organisation says at least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable – so making a simple pledge or ‘pinky promise’ with your best friend might be the best way to keep your health on track and reduce your risk of cancer.
Friends can help keep each other accountable by pledging to get regular screening tests, to maintain a healthy diet, or to stop smoking.
We surveyed of more than 250 women and found that more than 75 per cent would make a promise to help their best friend lead a healthier life; while 65 per cent said if their best friend pledged to help them commit to their health goals, it would help them stay on track.
This shows the support of friends is really important, and that’s why we think making a ‘pinky promise’ pledge will make a difference.
IMK: How many women do you hope to see make a promise and what impact would this have statistically?
Krystal: We want to see more than 10,000 people (not just women) register their pledge at pinkypromise.com.au during the month of May.
IMK: What’s the biggest myth surrounding preventable cancers?
Krystal: One-third of all cancers globally are preventable. When you do the stats that is a lot of lives that could be saved.
I think cancer is a scary word and there is so much information out there that may confuse people.
I think the biggest myth about cancer is – it isn’t curable. If you catch it early enough, if you know your risk and take adequate steps to reduce it – that can have a huge positive outcome on your health.
IMK: What does pink hope support?
Krystal: Pink Hope supports families facing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. This includes
– Women and men who are BRCA gene fault positive – Women who have returned an inconclusive result from a gene test – Other gene fault carriers like PTEN, ATM, Lynch Syndrome etc – Families members supporting the high risk individual & the general population who wish to assess their risk
IMK: At what age did you find out you were carrying the gene?
Krystal: More than twenty women in my family have been diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer including my mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 36, my nan at 44, and my great grandma at 68.
So at age 22, after years of uncertainty, I underwent genetic testing which returned a positive result for the BRCA gene (the same gene fault made famous by Angelina Jolie). The next few years were filled with anxiety as I navigated the choices and options available.
That was when I realised there was no unique charity focused on the needs of families facing hereditary cancer.
In 2009, at age 25 and with a husband and young family, I made the difficult decision to break the cycle of cancer. I underwent a preventative double mastectomy and I decided to publically share my story in order to give a face and awareness to prevention.
In 2014, I took the next step in my cancer prevention journey and had my fallopian tubes and one ovary removed.
Having experienced the isolation and lack of information for high risk women like me, I decided to be proactive about helping others which lead me to create Pink Hope.
Through Pink Hope, I have made it my personal mission to provide information, resources and support for thousands of families around the country.
IMK: What options are there out there for high risk candidates like yourself?
Krystal: Genetic testing and the mapping of family health history allows for an insight into the level of risk each woman faces. For women who find they fall within the high-risk category, many options are available including screening and symptom checking, risk reducing medication, and preventative surgery.
It’s working out which options are right for you with the help of your healthcare team.
IMK: Do lifestyle factors come into play for low risk candidates in lessening their chances?
Krystal: Yes, through the Pinky Promise campaign we are encouraging people to reduce their risk of preventative cancer:
- drink less alcohol
- exercise regularly
- eat healthier
- don’t smoke
- regular screening
- investigate your family history
There are some tips and more information available at pinkypromise.com.au
IMK: Whats involved in having a genetic test and is it something that is becoming more accessible to women that have a family history?
Krystal: Breast and ovarian cancers mostly occur by chance or due to environmental and lifestyle factors, but in some cases they run in the family.
When cancers run in the family it is said that there is an inherited predisposition, which means that there is a higher chance a person will develop cancer in their lifetime, due to a faulty gene inherited from either or both parents.
However, it’s important to remember not all at risk families have an identified gene mutation.
Some of the known inherited changes (mutations) are in the genes:
– BRCA1 and BRCA2 (known to cause an inherited predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer in both males and females)
A genetic counsellor also may order testing for an abnormal ATM, p53, CHEK2, PTEN, CDH1, PALB2, RINT1, MRE11A, RAD50, or NBN gene if it’s determined from your personal or family history that these tests are needed.
Mutations in other genes may also be involved, however have not yet been discovered.
We have further information on genes and genetic testing
So please don’t delay, make your pledge today, and support Pinky Promise.