Cancer loves my family more than it should. Breasts, lungs, pancreas and heart disease are no exception. Without getting too morbid on you, I’ll keep it brief. When you personally have, and see first hand, family members and loves ones experience the diagnosis, treatment and recovery of cancer, it changes the way you look at all the trivial things in your life, especially when you have to say goodbye.
World Ovarian Cancer Day, now in it’s second year marked annually in our diaries for May 8th, is fast becoming a global phenomenon. And it’s wonderful to learn that of the 22 countries actively participating/pledging, Australians lead the tally board per capita (of course this isn’t a competition, though it’s heart warming to see that we may be a small country [land mass vs population], but we are mighty. Did you miss the memo? Read on…
I first become familiar with ovarian cancer when my Aunt was diagnosed shortly after my wedding in 2008. Having not heard of the disease before, let alone even comprehending there could be such a thing, my research and fierce advocacy went into overdrive. The things you learn are just terrifying. Statistically today, one Australian woman is diagnosed every eight hours (compared to one every eleven hours when I first started fund-raising for Ovarian Cancer Australia and advocating awareness in 2010).
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all female cancers. Ovarian cancer is diagnosed annually in nearly a quarter of a million women globally, and is responsible for 140,000 deaths each year. Statistics show that just 45% of women with ovarian cancer are likely to survive for five years compared to up to 89% of women with breast cancer. Developing and developed nations are similarly affected by this disease. Symptoms are often misdiagnosed, as they can be confused with symptoms of other less severe illnesses, particularly gastrointestinal complaints.
The majority of patients are only identified in the advanced stages when the disease becomes more difficult to treat. There is no routine, simple test to accurately detect ovarian cancer. Please know that a PAP Test (for cervical abnormalities) DOES NOT cover/test for overran cancer, which makes knowing the early signs & symptoms so much more imperitive.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be confused with other less serious conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders - and when you look at the major signs, if you’re pregnant or going through menopause it’s easy to get confused! The majority of patients are identified in the advanced stages when the disease becomes more difficult to treat. Awareness of the risk factors, signs and symptoms, as well as your family history are all important to identifying the disease sooner.
Experts now believe it is the frequency and combination of symptoms that can help doctors distinguish between ovarian cancer and other conditions. If a woman experiences one or more of the following symptoms on most days within a three week period, they should discuss their concerns with their doctor:
- Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
- Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently
Women with ovarian cancer are most likely to have one or more of the above symptoms on a frequent basis. There can be other symptoms which also occur, including change in bowel habits, abnormal vaginal bleeding, fatigue, and unexpected weight loss or weight gain (in this instance around the abdomen). However these are less helpful when a doctor is trying to determine whether or not ovarian cancer is the cause.
Connect with Ovarian Cancer Australia if the disease runs in your family, for support, or more detailed information on the signs and symptoms and how it may apply to you/someone you know.
What is World Ovarian Cancer Day?
The first World Ovarian Cancer Day took place May 8th, 2013. It is dedicated to creating and raising awareness about ovarian cancer, the women’s cancer with the lowest survival rate for which there is little awareness and no cure. On this day, ovarian cancer awareness organisations from across the world worked together with a singular focus and message for ovarian cancer and its symptoms.
World Ovarian Cancer Day will take place on May 8th each year - pencil it in your diary! The website www.ovariancancerday.org is a resource for learning about the Day, the disease, and how to get involved with your local ovarian cancer organisation. Today I was honoured to be invited by Ovarian Cancer Australia to the Australian High Teal (the OCA adaptation for High Tea - teal being the international colour for ovarian cancer) that took place in the Macquarie Room of Parliament House, New South Wales. Ministers from all Political Parties took a break from Sittings to join us and together with sponsors, associates and supporters, family members of those affected and survivors, we celebrated the milestone day like family.
What can you do?
Join the movement: SIGN the pledge!
Social Media: Spread the word about World Ovarian Cancer Day. Tweet/Instagram with the hashtags #WOCD #WorldOvarianCancerDay to join the conversation using this image:
Visit your country’s ovarian cancer organisation’s website to learn more and to get involved.
My Pledge (for my Aunty Chez)
Spread the word. Ensure no woman walks alone.
Your Mrs Australia