Ovarian cancer hugely misunderstood: study

ovarian cancer teal ribbon

Around a third of Australians don’t know the signs, symptoms and risk factors of the most lethal women’s cancer, new research shows

A study commissioned by Ovarian Cancer Australia to mark Teal Ribbon Day (28 February) has shown that Australians have a poor understanding of gynaecological cancer, with nearly one in three unable to differentiate between ovarian and cervical cancer.

More than 70% of Australians do not know, or incorrectly believe that the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine protects against ovarian cancer, and more than 50% still incorrectly believe that the Pap smear can detect it.

Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer and only 44% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will be alive five years after diagnosis, in comparison to cervical cancer’s five year survival rate of 72%.

Ovarian Cancer Australia’s CEO Jane Hill said the study’s findings are alarming.

“Ovarian cancer and cervical cancer are two distinctively different diseases. Ovarian cancer can originate in the fallopian tubes, on the cells outside of the ovary, the cells that produce eggs and from supporting tissue within the ovary whereas most incidences of cervical cancer are found in the cervix,” Ms Hill said.

“Too many Australians incorrectly believe that HPV vaccine protects against ovarian cancer. It does not. This shines a light on the lack of understanding of gynaecological cancer amongst the Australian public.

“Today is Teal Ribbon Day, the national day on which we remember those who have lost their lives to ovarian cancer and encourage Australians to wear a teal ribbon to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. The findings of this study show just how important it is that we continue to raise awareness of this disease.

“All Australians need to know the main symptoms of ovarian cancer, which 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,” Ms Hill said.

“More than 90% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer experience one or more of the known symptoms in the leadup to their diagnosis. It is imperative you don’t ignore the signs and consult your GP.

“If these symptoms are new and continue over a four-week period, women are encouraged to visit their doctor without delay,” Ms Hill said.

“There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. It is staggering that more than half of Australian women incorrectly believe that the Pap smear can detect ovarian cancer,” Ms Hill said.

Every year in Australia, approximately 1,600 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and over 1,000 succumb to the disease. If found in its early stages, women have an 80% chance of being alive after five years. However 75% of women are diagnosed in advanced stages.

TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacies and Black Pepper stores have been selling teal ribbons to allow Australians to show their support for Ovarian Cancer Australia.

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