February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: every woman needs to know the symptoms…


Every 11 hours, an Australian woman will die from ovarian cancer. Contrary to popular belief, a pap smear does not test for ovarian cancer. There is currently no early detection test – so recognising the symptoms is the only means of early detection. This February, Ovarian Cancer Australia are asking Australian women to learn the symptoms and not leave it till the eleventh hour.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is the initiative of Ovarian Cancer Australia. Awareness of ovarian cancer and its symptoms is vital for every Australian woman of any age because every day ovarian cancer affects someone’s partner, sister, daughter or mother.

On February 1, Ovarian Cancer Australia is launching Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2010 to help save lives by raising awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and provide support for those touched by ovarian cancer.
• In 2010, more than 1500 Australia women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
• More than 850 will die from the disease – that’s 1 woman every 11 hours.
• 75% of women are diagnosed in the advanced stages and will not live beyond 5 years.
• Ovarian cancer is the 6th most common cause of death in Australian women.
• Ovarian cancer can affect women of all ages – girls as young as 7 have been diagnosed. But the risk of getting ovarian cancer increases with age. The average age for an ovarian cancer diagnosis is 64.
• There is no detection test – a Pap smear does NOT detect ovarian cancer.
• The majority of Australian women DON’T know the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but almost all women with ovarian cancer suffer symptoms.
• To ensure a good chance of survival it is essential that ovarian cancer is caught in the early stages.
• If found in the early stages, the majority of women will be alive and well after five years.
• Awareness of symptoms is the principle means of early diagnosis to save lives!
• With the help of the media, we aim to save lives by educating women about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. We aim to inform them about what to do if they have symptoms, empowering them to manage their health.

How Many Women In Australia Have Ovarian Cancer?
1 in 70 Australian women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Each year, more than 850 Australian women will lose their battle with ovarian cancer – that’s one woman every 11 hours.

What Is The Life Expectancy For A Woman Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer?
75% of women are diagnosed in the advanced stages and will not live beyond 5 years. If diagnosed early, the majority of those women will survive. This is why awareness and early detection is so important.

Who Is At Risk Of Developing Ovarian Cancer?
Factors that are considered to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are:
• Age – women over the age of 45 are at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, it affects women of all ages – ovarian cancer has been diagnosed in girls as young as 7.
• Never having taken the contraceptive pill.
• Having few or no pregnancies.
• A high-fat diet, being overweight and smoking.
• A history of cancer in the family, especially ovarian, breast or some bowel cancers (approximately 10% of all ovarian cancer cases are due to an inherited gene fault and these are found in 1 in 500 people in Australia).
• Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ovarian Cancer?
The four most frequently reported symptoms from women diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer are:
• Persistent abdominal pain or pelvic (lower abdominal) pain.
• A noticeable increase in abdominal size or abdominal bloating.
• Needing to rush to the toilet to urinate often or urgently.
• Feeling full quickly of finding it difficult to eat.

Other symptoms that have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer include:
• Vague but persistent stomach upsets such as wind, nausea, heart burn or indigestion
• Vaginal bleeding
• Change in bowel habits
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Excessive fatigue

If these symptoms persist even after prescribed treatment for other more common conditions (for example, irritable bowel syndrome), women should ask their GP to consider the possibility of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Australia provides free symptom diaries to download from their website so that women can track what they are experiencing and be able to better communicate with their GP.

Is There A Test For Ovarian Cancer?
No! There is NO early detection screening test for ovarian cancer. A Pap smear does NOT detect Ovarian cancer. This is why awareness of the symptoms is critical to Australian women.

How Is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?
Ovarian cancer can only be confirmed at the point of surgery. If ovarian cancer is suspected, a GP will recommend tests that can suggest if ovarian cancer is a possibility, these include the CA125 test, and a trans-vaginal ultrasound, but these tests cannot be used to screen for or diagnose ovarian cancer.

How Is It Treated?
When ovarian cancer is confirmed during surgery, a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries on both sides), omentectomy (removal of the fatty tissue that covers the bowels), lymphadenectomy (removal of one or more lymph nodes) may be performed.

About Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is an international campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

In 2010, Australia Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is held in February. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is also a time when Ovarian Cancer Australia, their volunteers and friends, raise funds for their programs and resources to support women with ovarian cancer and to ensure every woman in Australia knows the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

How Do Donations Make A Difference To The Lives Of Women Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer?
Donations of $2.00 or more are gratefully received and fully tax deductible. Donations are critical in helping fund Ovarian Cancer Australia’s support programs and resources for patients and their families.
These programs and resources include:
• 1300 Referral Line.
• Support groups for women with ovarian cancer to meet regularly to talk about common issues, share information and provide emotional support to help them cope with diagnosis and treatment.
• Rural and Regional Tele-Support Group for women who are unable to travel to the support group meetings.
• An online forum where ovarian cancer sufferers can share their stories and offer advice and support to other sufferers.
• Symptom Diary – a useful tool for women to track symptoms and better communicate what they are experiencing with their GP.
• Resilience – a free resource for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer consisting of a diary/journal and an information pack that provides up-to-date information support and advice.
• “Ovarian Cancer – The Journey” – Patient Resource DVD and “Silent No More” – Community Awareness DVD.
• Research – Ovarian Cancer Australia also supports the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, a collaborative research program between clinicians, scientists, patients and advocacy groups aimed at improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Why Is Teal The Colour We Use For Our Ribbons & Branding?
Teal is the international colour for ovarian cancer.

How Can I Support Women & Their Families Who Are Battling Ovarian Cancer?
• Buy a Teal Ribbon from Ovarian Cancer Australia.
• Donate to Ovarian Cancer Australia. Donations of $2.00 or more are gratefully received and fully tax deductible.
• Host a morning tea or BBQ with your friends and colleagues to raise funds.
• Distribute a symptom diary or awareness brochures and posters to all the women in your life, awareness saves lives.

For More Information About Ovarian Cancer & Ovarian Cancer Australia, Contact:
1300 660 334

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