Despite improvements, prognosis still poor for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer

Despite improvements in survival rates for ovarian cancer, the prognosis for women diagnosed with the disease remains relatively poor, according to the latest national report on ovarian cancer released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC).

The report, Ovarian cancer in Australia: an overview, 2010, shows that in 2006, there were 1,226 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed in Australia, which equates to an average of three women being diagnosed with the disease every day.

'Between 1982 and 2006, although the overall number of cases increased (largely due to a growing and ageing population) the incidence rate dropped slightly from 12.4 to 10.7 per 100,000 women,' said Christine Sturrock, Head of the AIHW's Cancer and Screening Unit.

Almost 800 Australian women, an average of two per day, died from ovarian cancer in 2006.

One in 77 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer by the time they reach the age of 85.

The report shows that 40% of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer between 2000 and 2006 were alive five years after their diagnosis. This is in contrast to those diagnosed between 1982 and 1987, when only 33% were alive five years after their diagnosis.

'Although survival rates have improved since 1982, the challenge remains that ovarian cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages,' said Dr Helen Zorbas, CEO NBOCC.

'Improved survival rates give increasing hope to women diagnosed today, however, a better understanding of the biology of ovarian cancer, and the need for an effective early detection test remain key areas of focus for future research,' said Dr Zorbas.

The report also found survival rates were significantly poorer for older women than younger women.

'Reasons for poorer survival rates among older women include a greater likelihood of these women being diagnosed with more aggressive types of cancer or when the cancer has already spread,' said Ms Sturrock.

'In the absence of a screening test, women who experience new or persistent symptoms of ovarian cancer are encouraged to see their doctor,' said Dr Zorbas.

'The symptoms of ovarian cancer can include abdominal bloating, abdominal or back pain, appetite loss or feeling full quickly, changes in toilet habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, indigestion or heartburn, and fatigue,' said Dr Zorbas.

The report will be launched today by Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, at a Teal Ribbon Day event at Parliament House.


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