One woman dies of ovarian cancer every 48 hours according to The New Zealand Gynaecological Foundation, with rates being among the highest in the world.
This ovarian cancer awareness month, our oncologist Dr Rosalie Stephens says that we must raise the profile of ovarian cancer here in New Zealand. Around 300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year – we need to focus more attention on research, treatment options and support. Although not as common as other female cancers, mortality rates are high with ovarian cancer being the fifth leading cause of cancer death in New Zealand women.
Currently, there are no reliable or straightforward ways to screen for ovarian cancer, and it usually remains undetectable until symptomatic. However, ovarian cancer is treatable and can be managed well with chemotherapy.
Dr Stephens suggests that research here in New Zealand, as well as internationally, should be focusing on finding a screening method. If detected before symptomatic, treatment options for ovarian cancer would be much better.
What are the signs and symptoms I should be looking out for?
Symptoms may include:
- Bloated stomach
- Feeling full
- Needing to urinate more
- Lower tummy or back pain
- Change in bowel habit
If you’ve had any of these symptoms for three weeks or more, please go and see your GP.
What about risk factors?
An important risk factor for ovarian cancer is family history. If you have had family members on either the maternal or paternal side with a history of breast or ovarian cancer speak to your GP. You may be eligible for genetic testing.
Dr Stephens emphasizes that this month is a good reminder to listen to your body and to trust your instinct if you think things aren’t right.