Every February, Australia marks Ovarian Cancer Month. Organised by support and advocacy group Ovarian Cancer Australia, the month is simultaneously a call to action to help develop better treatment and management strategies for condition and a remembrance of the women who have died as a result of the cancer.
During February, people across the country are encouraged to read up on and discuss ovarian cancer with friends and family, helping each other better understand the condition. Women are also encouraged to speak to their doctors about their own ovarian cancer risk, understanding early warning signs so they can spot them in themselves and in each other. The month culminates in Teal Ribbon Day on February 28th, when workplaces and families around the country throw 'Afternoon Teals', fundraising for Ovarian Cancer Australia and helping to drive research forward.
But what is ovarian cancer, and why does it need this fundraising? To help you understand this year, Wilson Medic One has put together this short blog.
A surprisingly common condition
Ovarian cancer is one of the top ten most diagnosed cancers in women in Australia, and the second most common diagnosed gynaecological cancer. While not as commonly occurring as breast cancer, ovarian cancer is significantly more likely to be deadly, with the five-year relative survival rate at 44.4 per cent. Most commonly appearing in women over the age of 50 who have bene through menopause, a family history of ovarian cancer is the strongest risk factor, with risk increasing slightly in women who have not or been unable to have children, and in women who have never used oral contraceptives. The presence of endometriosis or the onset of early puberty (prior to 12 years old) or late menopause (after 50) have also been connected to an increased risk factor.
Difficult to treat & screen for
Treatment and screening for ovarian cancer remains simplistic and difficult compared to other cancers, leading to increasingly loud calls for further research and development. Pap smears do not test for ovarian cancer – a message Ovarian Cancer Month hopes to communicate every year – and the cancer is usually only detectable in its advanced stages. Treatment has also advanced little in the past few decades, with women with strong genetic risks often being cautioned to have their ovaries surgically removed (oophorectomy). The procedure is also recommended as a treatment after cancer has been detected, and is often used alongside chemotherapy.
If you'd like to get involved, visit Ovarian Cancer Australia to find out how.