Fact: around 1,600 Australians will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.
It’s an alarming statistic, but what’s worse is that for 9 out of 10 women, the disease will be caught at an advanced stage. The reason? Less than half of all sufferers will visit their GP when they first notice symptoms, according to a new study commissioned by the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
“Too many women are being diagnosed far too late. Too many hadn’t even heard of the disease,” Ovarian Cancer Australia CEO, Jane Hill said of the findings. “The study highlights low levels of awareness of ovarian cancer as a global problem resulting in delays in women seeking medical attention.”
Researchers surveyed 1,500 women living with ovarian cancer across 44 countries – making this study the most extensive of its kind.
“Globally, the survey revealed diagnosis took an estimated average of 31 weeks from a woman experiencing symptoms to her diagnosis; for one in ten women, diagnosis came more than a year after visiting a doctor,” Hill added. “In Australia, women had a longer time to diagnosis compared to women in Germany, Japan and Spain – but high rates of surgery.”
The researchers established that a lack of awareness among medical professionals contributed to these delays, as well as the fact that genetic testing (both pre and post-diagnosis) is often hard to come by.
Because of this, it’s important to be across the tell-tale signs: “The four key symptoms of ovarian cancer are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently and feeling full after eating a small amount,” Hill advised.
Other signs to watch out for include:
- Changes to bowel habits
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Back pain or cramps
- Indigestion or nausea
- Excessive fatigue
- Pain during sex
If any of these sound familiar, speak to your doctor or visit OvarianCancer.net.au to find out more.