Too many women ignorant of symptoms of ovarian cancer

A new survey had revealed that though ovarian cancer remains one of biggest gynaecological cancer killers, many women are unsure or unaware of the symptoms of the disease.

As many as 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and more than half of these women will not survive five years after their initial diagnosis.

The main reason is because more than 70 per cent of women are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the cancer has spread and is difficult to treat successfully.

A new patient resource kit developed by Ovarian Cancer Australia (OvCa) has been designed to help women battling ovarian cancer and includes an information guide to living with the cancer and a daily diary for recording doctors' appointments and setting goals.

The kit will be available to all women with ovarian cancer and aims to gives women reliable and comprehensive information to help them to cope with the serious disease, which often has a devastating effect.

The survey of over 2,000 women revealed over 60 per cent of Australian women still believe an abnormal Pap test is a sign of ovarian cancer, even though a Pap test is designed to detect cervical cancer.

Dr. Helen Zorbas, Director of National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre says the lack of a screening test for ovarian cancer means it is vital that women are aware of its symptoms.

With only about one third of women surveyed correctly identifying the symptoms, it is clear awareness about ovarian cancer remains low.

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as a silent killer because its symptoms can be vague and similar to the symptoms of many other conditions that can be part of everyday life and symptoms and include: abdominal bloating, abdominal or back pain, appetite loss or feeling full, changes in toilet habits, unexplained weight gain or loss, indigestion or heartburn and fatigue.

Dr. Zorbas says every woman will have experienced one or more of these symptoms at some stage, but if any of these symptoms are unusual for the woman and if they persist, it is important to see a doctor.

Karen Livingstone the CEO of OvCa Australia says it is imperative that women trust their instincts and refer to their doctor.

OvCa Australia says women should also ensure their doctor refers them to a gynaecological oncologist so that the best treatment regime for them can be provided.

OvCa says research has shown that women receiving first line of surgery with gynaecological oncologists will have a better outcome.

The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre is also launching a new training module to support doctors in the investigation of women who present with symptoms that may be ovarian cancer, and all aspects of their diagnosis and care.

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