February 24th is Teal Ribbon Day, an initiative of Ovarian Cancer Australia, which aims to educate Australian women on two great myths about ovarian cancer that a Pap smear detects ovarian cancer and that it is a silent killer.
Each year in Australia about 1500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than half of these women will not survive five years after their diagnosis.
More than 70 percent of women are diagnosed at an advanced stage, where the cancer has spread and is difficult to treat successfully.
There is currently no reliable early detection test or screening program for ovarian cancer but if the disease is detected and treated at an early stage there is a 90 percent chance of surviving past five years.
A survey of more than 2000 Australian women revealed more than 60 percent still believe an abnormal pap test is a sign of ovarian cancer. Yet a pap test is designed to detect cervical cancer.
"Awareness of ovarian cancer and its symptoms is vital," says Jean Kittson, ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Australia 2010 campaign.
"More and more women are coming to understand breast cancer and cervical cancer prevention and detection.
"Self breast examination and diagnostic screening programs such as mammograms and Pap tests are valuable tools in early diagnosis that saves lives. However, not enough women understand this is not the case for ovarian cancer. A Pap test does not detect the disease there is no early detection test. Only knowing and recognising the symptoms of ovarian cancer can help save lives.”
"In the past ovarian cancer has often been referred to as a ‘silent killer’ but we now know that it is not silent," says Paula Benson, Director of Ovarian Cancer Australia and a survivor of ovarian cancer.
"Scientific evidence has shown that many women do experience symptoms that if acted on, could result in an earlier diagnosis and a better chance of beating the disease."
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal or back pain
- appetite loss or feeling full
- changes in toilet habits
- unexplained weight gain or loss
- indigestion or heartburn
Levels of awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer remain low.
- Only about one third of women surveyed correctly identified feeling full or bloated as a symptom.
- Less than one quarter of women correctly identified putting on weight around the middle as a symptom.
- Less than one in 10 women knew indigestion can be a symptom of ovarian cancer.
- One in five women could not name any symptoms of ovarian cancer.
When in doubt, rule your ovaries out!
Teal ribbons can be purchased for $2 from Napoleon Perdis concept stores and Ovarian Cancer Australia. Funds raised will continue the work of Ovarian Cancer Australia.
For more information, visit www.ovariancancer.net.au