With the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer and little improvement over the last 20 years, Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA) is urging all Australians to take a stand against this harrowing disease and show their support during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this month.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, the signs and symptoms for which are often very subtle, and the ways in which people can donate and pledge their support for women and their families living with the disease.
Treatment options have advanced little since the 1970s prompting an urgency for change. In response, Ovarian Cancer Australia launched a National Action Plan for Ovarian Cancer Research, an Australian-first agenda, setting out immediate priorities for research in order to make a significant change to the number of women dying from the disease each year.
Olympic swimmer Nicole Livingstone and her sister Karen helped found OCA after their mother passed away from ovarian cancer.
Nicole Livingstone believes there is no better time for Australians to band together to turn the tables on this disease.
“Four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every day and three will die, ” she said.
“These figures are alarming – we need to take action now and make a change.”
Australians can help by hosting their own Afternoon Teal® in February, teal being the international colour for ovarian cancer.
“Register now to take a stand against ovarian cancer with a bake-off, afternoon picnic or high tea with your friends, family or colleagues,” urged Ms Livingstone.
Australians can also show their support by purchasing a Teal Ribbon or Colour for a Cause teal nail polish pack from Chemmart® Pharmacies nationally. OCA’s flagship day, Teal Ribbon Day, will be on Wednesday, 25th February.
With no early detection test, a key focus for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is to educate Australians on the symptoms of the disease to increase the chances of survival. The four key symptoms are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently, or feeling full after eating a small amount.
If these symptoms are new for women and they experience one or more of them persistently over a four-week period, they should consult their GP.
Simon Lee, founder of Ovarian Cancer Australia, emphasised the need to raise funds to enable increased awareness, support, advocacy and “Recent research has discovered that ovarian cancer is a collection of diseases rather than just one, each with their own distinct characteristics and behaviours,” he said.
“This gives us a range of promising opportunities, such as better treatment solutions targeting the specific nature of a woman’s type of ovarian cancer, which can only be achieved through much-needed funding for further research.
“We hope that Australians come out in force this February to allow us to really make an impact on the prognosis of the disease, better treatment options, and greater support for women and their families.”
1. Did you know that ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer and has a five-year survival rate well below the average for all cancers
2. In Australia, the overall five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 43%. In comparison, the overall five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 89%
3. Each year 1400 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and more than 1000 will die from the disease – that’s one woman every 8 hours!
4. Each day in Australia, four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and three will die from the disease.
5. If diagnosed early, the majority of women can survive. Unfortunately, most women are diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease.
6. Ovarian cancer most commonly affects women aged over 50 who have been through menopause; however the disease can affect women of all ages.
7. There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer so the best way of detecting the disease is to know and recognise the symptoms which most commonly include: abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently, or feeling full after eating a small amount.
8. Latest research shows that ovarian cancer is not just one disease but a collection of diseases with different characteristics and molecular structures. It is this knowledge that has required a major rethink in the way ovarian cancer is researched and funded.
9. Ovarian Cancer Australia has just launched a National Action Plan for ovarian cancer research setting out urgent priorities for research in Australia in order to make a significant change in the number of women dying from the disease.
10. There has been no significant change in treatment options for women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer since the 1970s. The National Action Plan is the first step in changing this story.
11. Genetics and family history are responsible for at least 15% of ovarian cancers. If a woman has two or more relatives from the same side of the family affected by ovarian or ovarian and breast cancer her risk of developing the disease may be increased. This tends to be a result of an inherited faulty gene (BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation) that increases a woman’s risk of developing both cancers.
12. Other risk factors women should be aware of include:
being over 50 years of age;
never having children, being unable to have children, or having children after 30;
never having used oral contraceptives;
lifestyle factors: such as smoking tobacco, being overweight or eating a high fat diet; and
hormonal factors: including early puberty (menstruating before 12) or late menopause (onset after 50 years of age).