Experts bust myths about ovarian cancer in bid to protect women from deadly disease

Hands holding teal Ovarian Cancer Ribbons
Hands holding teal Ovarian Cancer Ribbons

ALARMING new research shows too many Australian women incorrectly believe the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects them against ovarian cancer, while the majority still think a Pap smear can detect the lethal disease.

A nation-wide survey released by Ovarian Cancer Australia has revealed a lack of understanding of gynaecological cancer among Australian women.

The survey, conducted by Wallis Market and Social Research, found nearly one in three didn’t know the difference between ovarian cancer and cervical cancer.

More than 70 per cent did not know if, or incorrectly believed, the HPV vaccine protected them against ovarian cancer.

More than 50 per cent incorrectly believed that the Pap smear can detect ovarian cancer.

Both medical procedures only protect against cervical cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Australia CEO Jane Hill says the survey findings are “staggering” and urged women to become better educated on the disease.

“Ovarian cancer and cervical cancer are two distinctively different diseases. Ovarian cancer can originate in the fallopian tubes, on the cells outside of the ovary, the cells that produce eggs and from supporting tissue within the ovary whereas most incidences of cervical cancer are found in the cervix,” Ms Hill said.

Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer and only 44 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will be alive five years after diagnosis in comparison to cervical cancer’s five year survival.

If found in its early stages, survival increases to 80 per cent.

Ms Hill says early detection is key to beating the disease and warned women who did not know the signs and symptoms were putting their lives at risk.

“All Australians need to know the main symptoms of ovarian cancer, which are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently, or feeling full after eating a small amount,” Ms Hill said.

“More than 90 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer experience one or more of the known symptoms in the lead up to their diagnosis.”

If these symptoms are new or continue over a four-week period women are advised to promptly visit the doctor.

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