Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month takes place in March every year, and aims to educate the public about the disease and raise funds for initiatives that promote awareness and research.1 Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage, which dramatically decreases survival rates. Therefore, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may encourage women to seek help earlier and allow doctors to make a timely diagnosis.

 

Ovarian cancer was estimated to cause over 14,000 cancer deaths in 2016 in the US.2 it is estimated that 1% of women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point during their lifetime, with an average age of 63 at diagnosis.2

Only 46% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive for 5 years or longer2

Early diagnosis is critical to improve survival for patients with ovarian cancer. The stage of cancer depends on the size of the tumour and how far the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries. The earlier the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, the better the outcome:3

Ovarian cancer stage

Percentage of patients who survive 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

Stage I

90%

Stage II

40%

Stage III

20%

Stage IV

5%

 

It is important to emphasise that a 5-year survival rate does not mean patients do not live beyond 5 years, it simply measures the number of patients alive at this time, with many patients living beyond.3

Early diagnosis more than doubles 5-year survival (Stage I vs Stage II)3

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can vary between patients, and are often hard to identify.3 Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

·         Persistent bloating and/or abdominal pain that does not come and go

·         Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

·         Needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual

These symptoms may indicate ovarian cancer if they occur frequently (more than 12 times a month), or are a change from normal, particularly in women over 50 with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.4 However, many people who experience these symptoms will not have ovarian cancer.4

To get involved in Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, the Target Ovarian Cancer website lists lots of fun ways to raise awareness (http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/ovarian-cancer-awareness-month/start-making-noise-march)

References: 1. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Website. Available at: http://ocam.org.uk/. Last accessed: February 2017. 2. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Ovarian Cancer. Available at: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html. Last accessed: February 2017. 3. Cancer Research UK. Ovarian Cancer. Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/ovarian-cancer/. Last accessed: February 2017. 4. Target Ovarian Cancer. Available at: http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/information-and-support/what-ovarian-cancer/ovarian-cancer-symptoms. Last accessed: February 2017.