But misconceptions remain about deadly disease
Canadian women know more about ovarian cancer than they did six years ago, but misconceptions remain that could lead to late diagnosis of the country's most fatal gynecologic cancer - a disease that claims the lives of 70% of those diagnosed.
Results of a 2011 national Harris Decima survey released today by Ovarian Cancer Canada show an overall increase in awareness of ovarian cancer as a potentially fatal disease. More than half of Canadian women can now identify four symptoms of ovarian cancer - 54% of women in 2011 compared to 43% in 2005. However, one in four women (26%) still believe that the Pap test screens for ovarian cancer when in fact there is no screening test for the early detection of the disease.
"As the country's only charity dedicated solely to overcoming ovarian cancer, we are pleased that our awareness efforts are showing marked improvements in women's knowledge of the disease," says Karen CinqMars, Director, Marketing & Communications, Ovarian Cancer Canada. "However, this important research also tells us that there is much more work to be done to get the message out about ovarian cancer, which claims the lives of an alarming 1,750 Canadian women each year."
Other key study findings include:
- Awareness of ovarian cancer as a potentially fatal disease has increased (71% vs. 65%), particularly among women 51 years and older, who are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer (71% vs. 58%).
- In 2011, one in four women (26%) incorrectly believed that the Pap test screens for ovarian cancer, a significant improvement over one in three women in 2005 (31%).
- In 2011, 5% of women claimed to have never heard of ovarian cancer, a significant improvement from 12% in 2005.
While these findings show improved awareness over a six-year period, other findings indicate the need to continue awareness efforts:
- Concern about the disease has declined in recent years from 33% in 2005 to 29% in 2011, despite the fact that there is still no screening test.
- Women incorrectly believe there are numerous reliable screening tests for ovarian cancer. For example, 60% of women think an ultrasound on its own is a reliable screening test and 42% think that a pelvic exam on its own is a reliable screening test.
- 74% of women did not know or incorrectly identified the age group most affected by the disease.
"At this time, the best defence against ovarian cancer is to know the signs and symptoms and to be aware of your family medical history," says CinqMars. "While the Pap test screens for cervical cancer and the mammogram is a test for breast cancer, there is no equivalent screening test for the early detection of ovarian cancer."
Ovarian Cancer Canada recommends that a woman with one or more of the following symptoms that persist for three weeks or longer should see her doctor for a full investigation: swelling or bloating of the abdomen; pelvic discomfort or heaviness; back or abdominal pain; fatigue; gas, nausea, indigestion; changes in bowel habits; emptying your bladder frequently; menstrual irregularities; and unexplained weight loss or weight gain.
Ovarian Cancer Canada supports women living with the disease and their families; raises awareness among the public and health care professionals; and funds research toward the development of a screening test for the early detection of ovarian cancer, improved treatments and, ultimately, a cure.