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Lack of awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms

Cancer Australia survey findings released for Teal Ribbon Day, show that 45 per cent of women surveyed were unable to identify any symptom of ovarian cancer, with women at greatest risk, aged 60 years and over, even less likely to know.  Additionally, almost half of the women surveyed incorrectly responded that the age group most at risk of ovarian cancer was 35-50. 

Cancer Australia CEO, Professor Helen Zorbas said, “With about 1,500 Australian women expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, the majority of whom will be aged 60 years and over, it is important to raise awareness of the symptoms to women of all ages. 

“More than two-thirds of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage, where the cancer has spread and is difficult to treat successfully.  This results in a low survival rate, with only 43 per cent of women surviving 5 years after diagnosis.”

As there is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, it is important that women are aware of the symptoms, which include:   

  • Abdominal bloaing;
  • Abdominal or back pain;
  • Appetite loss or feeling full quickly;
  • Changes in toilet habits;
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain;
  • Indigestion or heartburn; and
  • Fatigue

Women who experience any of these symptoms, and if they are persistent or unusual for them, are encouraged to speak to their doctor without undue delay. 

Cancer Australia continues to increase the reach of awareness messages to women in the community and provides a range of evidence-based resources in a variety of formats for women at different stages of ovarian cancer. Cancer Australia also provides guidelines and recommendations for health professionals to support best practice care in ovarian cancer.

The Cancer Australia survey was conducted by Newspoll via telephone between 30 January and 1 February 2015, among a nationally representative sample of 612 women aged 18 years and over.

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