Time to learn about ovarian cancer
Each day in Australia, four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, with one woman dying every ten hours from the disease.
February is ovarian cancer awareness month and now is the time to learn more about risk-reduction, diagnosis, and treatment of the second most common gynaecological cancer.
Royal Darwin Hospital Gynaecological Oncologist Dr Michelle Harris said ovarian cancer was a general term used to describe a malignant tumour that involves one or both ovaries, although many of these cancers were now understood to have their origin in the Fallopian tubes.
“Each year in Australia around 1,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancers are not all the same, but in the majority of cases the cancer will be diagnosed at an advanced stage, where treatment is more challenging,” Dr Harris said.
In Australia the overall five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 46%, compared to breast cancer at 91%.
“It can be a devastating diagnosis for a woman and her family. However, there has been an increase in five-year survival from 32% in the 1980s and this is attributed to improvement in specialised cancer care services, including surgery, chemotherapy and coordination of treatment pathways.”
One woman who has experienced ovarian cancer is Palmerston woman, Gayleen Mahood. Mrs Mahood‘s diagnosis came following an ultrasound to investigate her lower back pain. This diagnosis was close to home as it came not long after her twin sister, was also diagnosed with cancer.
Mrs Mahood was referred to Dr Harris and two weeks later she had surgery to remove the cancer, followed by chemotherapy at the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre (AWCCC). She is now in remission.
“I was not shocked, as I felt a bit forewarned because of my twin’s situation. I felt disappointed that I had ovarian cancer, but lucky that it was discovered early,” Mrs Mahood said.
“I am feeling better and look forward to getting back to gardening. I wish to thank Dr Harris and all the staff at Royal Darwin Hospital and the AWCCC who have been wonderful.”
Dr Harris said the risk factors for women getting ovarian cancer included age and family history of ovarian cancer, breast or colon cancer.
“Unlike breast, cervical and bowel cancer, there are unfortunately no effective screening strategies for ovarian cancer that diagnose the disease at an early or pre-cancerous stage. It is important to discuss your risk, and appropriate management, with your doctor.”
Territorians affected by the disease can seek practical and emotional support by contacting the cancer care coordinators at Royal Darwin Hospital and the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre on (08) 8922 8888.