Dr Elizabeth Sigston is not your typical Australian head and neck cancer surgeon. A Senior Adjunct Lecturer, Entrepreneur, Environmentalist, founder of SavinGreen, Life and Leadership Coach, Telstra Business Women Awards Finalist and Mother, her professional life is as diverse and interesting as it gets.

If she isn’t strategising to save lives, she is planning how the company she founded, SavinGreen, is playing its part to save the environment. Now she is drawing from her success as a surgeon, cancer researcher and entrepreneur, to bring about a major change in the way we look at cancer. In September 2017, Dr Sigston and Professor Bryan Williams, an international authority on innate immunity and cancer biology, published the first systems-based framework for cancer An Emergence Framework of Carcinogenesis in medical journal Frontiers of Oncology.

In this framework, cancer is considered as a complex system rather than purely a genetic disease. An emergence framework has subsequently been applied by Dr Sigston in the clinical setting and used to develop a simple, inexpensive dual immunohistochemistry-staining test that can identify patients with oral cancers at a higher risk of recurrence. Dr Sigston says it is also time to reconsider how people who have, or have had cancer are referred to. How we label these people influences attitude, belief, psychology and ultimately a persons underlying physiology and immune function.

Dr Sigston knows this as she has been on both sides, as a patient and as a cancer surgeon. At 38, Dr Sigston endured her struggle with breast cancer that could have claimed her life. Elizabeth Sigston is a product of all that she has achieved, the journey she has endured and the adversity she has overcome to rise above a disease that impacts 1 in every 8 Australian women and kills 3000 annually.

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