For many years now, ovarian cancer has been labelled the ‘silent killer’ due to the fact that it so often goes undetected. This is a worrying trend for all women.

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA) is urging all Australians to learn more about ovarian cancer by knowing the signs and symptoms, knowing your family history and knowing how to help women and their families living with the disease. OCA is calling it the Know Ovarian Cancer campaign and it’s a move toward reducing the disease’s incidence through education.

You probably didn’t know this but 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and unfortunately, 1,000 of those women succumb to the disease. Even more alarming is the statistic that only 43 per cent of women will survive five years post diagnosis, well below the average for all cancers. Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of all women’s cancers and this is why every woman needs to know more about it. We spoke to Jane Hill, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia, about ways we can get to know ovarian cancer this February.

Know the signs and symptoms

Despite recent advancements, there is no simple early detection test for ovarian cancer. Many women wrongly believe that a pap smear can detect ovarian cancer, when it cannot. Many women also wrongly believe that the HPV vaccination protects against ovarian cancer, when it does not (it protects against cervical cancer). The best defence against ovarian cancer is to learn the signs and symptoms.

Symptoms commonly include:

Abdominal or pelvic pain

Increased abdominal size or persistent bloating

The need to urinate often or urgently

Feeling full after eating only a small amount

Know your risk

Genetics and family history are responsible for up to 20 per cent of ovarian cancer cases. This is often as a result of an inherited faulty gene (BRCA1/BRCA2) that increases a woman’s risk of developing both ovarian or breast cancer.

  • Whilst ovarian cancer is more common in women over the age of 50 and who have experienced menopause, the disease does not discriminate and it can affect women of any age!
  • Women who experience early puberty or late menopause, have endometriosis, are overweight or smoke have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Up to one in five women who develop ovarian cancer have the genetic mutation that can increase the risk of developing the disease. Inheriting the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer from 1 per cent in the general population to 59 per cent for BRCA1 and 17 per cent for BRCA2. Faulty BRCA genes can be inherited from either parent and there is a 50 per cent chance that an individual with a BRCA mutation passes this gene fault onto each of their children.

It is vitally important that all Australians have the conversation about family history – it may just save the life of a loved one or even your own.

Know how to help

Teal Time? OCA is calling on all Australians to know how they can help to reduce the impact of ovarian cancer and improve the outcomes for women and their families living with this insidious disease.

OCA’s Afternoon Teal campaign – teal being the international colour for ovarian cancer – encourages Australians to host a fundraising event for their friends, family or colleagues. Whether it’s a high tea, picnic, golf day or gala dinner, anybody and everybody can get involved!

By hosting or attending an Afternoon Teal fundraiser during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this February, OCA can continue to provide their much-needed services to the community. Your cake, cuppa, conversation and donations may just help save a life. You can register your Afternoon Teal event at: www.ovariancancer.net.au

Australians can also raise funds by wearing a Teal Ribbon throughout February – particularly on Teal Ribbon Day, 24th February 2016 – by purchasing a Teal Ribbon from Principal Partner Chemmart Pharmacies nationwide or from www.ovariancancer.net.au.