Everyone is aware of breast cancer’s pink ribbon campaigns. But another conversation on women’s health is lost amongst this talk – ovarian cancer. Although the disease is rare compared to breast cancer, the statistics are far incredibly grim. The five-year survival rate for the disease is just 43 percent, compared to breast cancer’s roughly 90 percent. Often ovarian cacner has vague and non-specific symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage and survival is poor. So why are gynaecological cancers, like ovarian cancer, so hush-hush?
1. Ovarian cancer isn’t as prevalent as breast cancer
This fact affects the conversation on women’s health in numerous and sometimes unexpected ways. There hasn’t been a high-profile public figure or well-known campaigners diagnosed with ovarian cancer in some time who might bring people’s attention to the disease. With new cases of breast cancer hitting the news all the time, it’s on the public’s mind more often.
2. There is still lots of work to be in research outside of awareness.
While it’s great to be talking openly about breast cancer and the success of October’s pink ribbon, there is still a lot of work to be done with ovarian awareness. Even more so, there is work to be done to help us understand ovarian cancer. For instance, doctors have been working on identifying the key emerging symptoms of ovarian cancer—like bloating, early satiety while eating, urinary frequency or urgency, pelvic or abdominal pain, so women can get diagnosed earlier and survive the disease.
3. Some women mistakenly think they’re covered.
For breast cancer, there are mammograms and even the self-exam. These are external organs that you can check – you can feel lumps. For gynaecological cancer, pap smears only test for cervical cancer and not ovarian cancer, which many women don’t realise. It is harder to catch these diseases early.
4. Some think ovarian cancer is an automatic death sentence (it’s not).
The perception of deadliness of ovarian cancer is another reason we’re not hearing enough about ovarian cancer. While breast cancer is one of the most common cancers, ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest. However, if diagnosed in the early stages, survival rates jump to more than 90 percent in stage one. For stage two it’s more than 70 percent. We should get past the ‘this is so deadly, this is so sad’ conversation to other important topics. It is important for women to know the symptoms and advocate for themselves.