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Many women ignorant of ovarian cancer threat

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More than half of Australian women mistakenly believe that ovarian cancer, rather than cervical cancer, is detected by a pap smear, a new study shows, a misconception that experts fear could lead women to be less vigilant for ovarian cancer symptoms.

The study, conducted by the Wallis Group for Ovarian Cancer Australia, found nearly a third of women also incorrectly believed that the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine (HPV) prevents ovarian cancer.

Speaking ahead of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place in February, Chief Executive Officer of Ovarian Cancer Australia, Alison Amos, said she was alarmed by the lack of awareness among Australians about ovarian cancer.

She said there was no early detection test for ovarian cancer, meaning it was important that all women were familiar with its symptoms.

“During February, I urge all women to learn and share the symptoms of ovarian cancer and take action if affected,” she said.

“The four key symptoms are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently and feeling full after a small amount.

“If these symptoms are new for women, and they experience one or more of them persistently over a four-week period, they should consult their GP.”

While vigilance for the key symptoms is crucial for early detection, the study found that 29 per cent of women surveyed believed that ovarian cancer had no symptoms at all.

The study also found that 27 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men believe that most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive it. However, each day in Australia, four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and three women will die from the disease.

Ms Amos said the study’s findings demonstrate the importance of communicating the facts about ovarian cancer as widely as possible, which is the aim of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

She urged all Australians to get involved this February by hosting an Afternoon Teal fundraising event and wearing a teal ribbon on Teal Ribbon Day, Wednesday, February 26. To buy a ribbon or find out more, go to www.ovariancancer.net.au

Debra Vermeer