Ovarian Cancer Is Often Found Too Late, so What Are the Symptoms To Look Out For?

Ovarian Cancer Is Often Found Too Late, so What Are the Symptoms To Look Out For?

Ovarian cancer is known as the most lethal gynaecological cancer there is. One woman in Australia dies from this disease every eight hours, and according to data from the American Cancer Society, 60% of women are not diagnosed with ovarian cancer until the disease has spread to other tissue.

The data is bleak, but the powerful news to take here is that if detected early enough, the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) states that over 90% of patients can be cured.

So, how do we improve the rates of early detection?

Currently, there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. Unlike cervical cancer screenings or mammograms, the only way to accurately diagnose ovarian cancer is with invasive surgery.

There appears to be a dangerous misconception about this fact. The OCRF shared that a recent study completed by the University of Melbourne highlighted that 64% of women believe that Pap smears can detect ovarian cancer. They don’t.

What this means is that we heavily rely on the presence of symptoms for early detection. That presents another issue, however.

The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle

Adding to the list of difficulties presented by this silent and deadly disease is the fact that the symptoms are synonymous with a number of common and not particularly dangerous conditions.

These include:

  • Vague abdominal pain or pressure
  • Feeling of abdominal fullness, gas, nausea, indigestion—different to your normal sensations
  • Sudden abdominal swelling, weight gain or bloating
  • Persistent changes in bowel or bladder patterns
  • Low backache or cramps
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Unexplained weight loss

Before you become too concerned, however, note that the OCRF stated:

“If you have one or two of the listed symptoms, you most likely do not have ovarian cancer. That said, a greater combination of symptoms, or symptoms which persist or are unusual for you, should be investigated by a medical professional.”

So pay attention to your body, and if you’re ever concerned, make an appointment to chat with your GP.

This is why funding is imperative

It may sound surprising, but survival rates for this kind of cancer have not improved in two decades. This is a pretty clear indication that what is needed here is a better means of diagnosing the disease early.

For that, researchers need funds. Which is why organisations like the OCRF and the Ovarian Cancer Research Group, UNSW Medicine are in dire need of support.

Over the last 13 years, Witchery’s White Shirt Campaign has contributed over $13.8 million to research. One hundred per cent of gross proceeds from White Shirts sold go to the OCRF every year. Impressive, no?

Ovarian cancer
OCRF Cotton Shirt worn by official ambassador Celeste Barber $129.95 (Image supplied)

This year’s White Shirt Campaign ambassador for Witchery and the OCRF, Celeste Barber, shared in a statement that she was “incredibly shocked to learn that invasive surgery was the only way to detect and accurately diagnose ovarian cancer. Vital research is needed to find a non-invasive early detection alternative that is readily available to all women.”

Similarly, fashion label Camilla and Marc has also kicked off a campaign in the name of ovarian cancer research – Ovaries. Talk About Them. The initiative was launched in 2020 and has already raised $225K by donating 100 per cent of sale proceeds from limited-edition t-shirts and hoodies.

Ovarian cancer
On sale April 12. RRP $110 for the limited-edition campaign t-shirt and RRP $199 for the limited-edition hoodie. (Image supplied)

If you’d like to get involved and throw some cash behind an important cause that affects close to 300,000 women worldwide every year (as Camilla and Marc has shared), you can purchase a Witchery shirt here, or items from the Camilla and Marc range here.

Log in to comment on this story!