A national study has found that 44% of Australians with a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer in their family have not spoken to their doctor about their family history.
This is despite up to one in five occurrences of ovarian cancer being an inherited form of the disease, often attributed to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations that increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia Jane Hill says the study, commissioned by OCA, has revealed alarming results in the lead-up to Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which starts today, and the launch of OCA’s new national awareness initiative, Know Ovarian Cancer.
“Know Ovarian Cancer urges Australians to know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, know their family history, and know how to help raise much-needed funds,” says Hill.
“There is still no early detection test for ovarian cancer, despite there being recent advances in the developmental stages of a test in the UK.
“Recognising the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer is key to enabling a timely diagnosis.”
Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer. If diagnosed in its early stages, women have an 80% chance of being alive and well after five years.
However the five-year survival rate is only 43%, as three-quarters of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
A woman is considered to have a family history of ovarian cancer if she:
- has a first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50;
- has a first degree relative diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age; or
- has a combination of two or more three first degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer.
A previous study by OCA noted that 93% of women with ovarian cancer experienced the known symptoms of the disease, with an average of 3.3 symptoms per respondent, demonstrating that ovarian cancer is not the “silent killer” it was once thought to be.
The common symptoms are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently, and feeling full after eating only a small amount.
OCA is calling on Australians to host an Afternoon Teal (teal is the international colour for breast cancer) during February, or to purchase a teal ribbon from participating stores including principle partner Chemmart pharmacies.