Liverpool: In the United Kingdom, 1 in 48 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, with 90% of cases in those aged 45 or greater.
How long you will live is determined by how early the cancer is diagnosed and treated.
In England, 9 out of 10 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the earliest opportunity (Stage I) will live 5 years according to data from the Anglia Cancer Network published on the Cancer Research UK website. This drops to just 2 out of 10 if diagnosed at Stage III.
The challenge is that the majority (60%) of women in England are diagnosed with stage III or IV disease.
The result is that the UK has survival rates below other European countries, in other words women die earlier from the disease than they should. In the North West of England, and in particular in Liverpool, ovarian cancer detection and survival is below the national average.
Possible reasons for this may be that primary care doctors fail to pick up early symptoms of cancer or that women don’t go and see a doctor until too late.
Abdel-Rahman et al in a 2009 paper published in the British Journal of Cancer estimated that almost 2,400 deaths within 5 years of diagnosis could be avoided if survival from ovarian cancer in Britain equalled the best in Europe.
In an effort to improve ovarian cancer outcomes, the UK government public health department and National Health Service have launched a Be Clear on Cancer campaign with radio and TV ads in the North West of England from 10 February to 16 March, 2014.
Last Saturday (International Women’s Day) I spoke with Liverpool Wavertree MP and Shadow Minister for Public Health Luciana Berger MP (@lucianaberger) who was handing out ovarian cancer awareness leaflets to shoppers at the St John’s Shopping Center in Liverpool.
The main message she gave me is that if women experience prolonged bloating most days for 3 weeks or more, they should see their doctor.
Whether this campaign results in more referrals and earlier diagnosis is something that will be measured. If survival rates can be significantly improved through raising cancer awareness then these campaigns will merit more media attention and funding in future.