How to get involved with Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2023

February 22, 2023
Disclaimer: MedAdvisor would like to remind our readers that the information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider for personalized information and guidance related to your specific health concerns.

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in Australia, helping to bring awareness to a pressing global health risk and save millions of lives. Women and anyone with ovaries are at risk of developing ovarian cancer, so it’s important that people are made aware of the signs and symptoms, as well as what support is available. Support can come in a number of forms, including through digital medical platforms and script services.

In this blog, the team at MedAdvisor will be covering the risk factors, symptoms and the reasoning behind the awareness month. We will also look into why catching ovarian cancer early for treatment is important and the testing methods available to you. Then, finally, we’ll walk you through how to get involved so that you can support those suffering, including family, friends and colleagues.

What is ovarian cancer?

Before we deep dive, let’s make sure we have the most obvious question answered, which is: What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a form of cancer that grows in the ovaries. In Australia, around 1,800 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Knowing what to watch for, and seeking treatment early, can help people overcome it. 

In summary, ovarian cancer is:

  • The 8th most common cancer in women globally
  • The 18th most common cancer overall, globally
  • Quick to multiply within the ovaries
  • Difficult to detect until advanced states, with no screening test
  • 2.5% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australian women (2022)
  • The cause of death for 1,016 women in Australia (2022)
  • Lived with by 5,035 women in Australia (end of 2017)
  • A cancer with a 49% chance of surviving for at least 5 years

Certain pre-existing conditions, dispositions and lifestyle choices can put you at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. On top of this, the risk of ovarian cancer developing increases with age, with the highest rates occurring between 75 and 79 years old.

Maintaining ovarian cancer awareness is particularly important depending on your age, as well as if any of the following factors apply to you:

  • You’ve previously had breast cancer
  • You’ve inherited faulty genes
  • You are on HRT (this has been shown to have a relatively small risk)
  • You live with endometriosis
  • You live with diabetes (particularly, perhaps, if you use insulin)
  • You have been exposed to asbestos
  • You are overweight
  • You have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • You are tall
  • You have not/will not bear children
  • You’ve experienced early menstruation
  • You’ve experienced late natural menopause

There are also certain lifestyle choices that may increase your risk of ovarian cancer, including smoking use of certain drugs and certain prescription medications. 

What symptoms should you watch out for? 

Signs of ovarian cancer development may include:

  • Pain in your abdomen
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Indigestion
  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Changes to bowel movements, including constipation
  • Increased urination

You should always seek professional medical care if you suspect ovarian cancer to be developing. While these symptoms may apply to a variety of ailments, it is important to always get things checked out, especially if they persist or worsen over time. So be sure to make an appointment to see your local physician for any symptoms that may worry you to err on the side of caution. They’ll be able to check and see whether everything is alright and what the cause of your pain may be. If ovarian cancer has developed, catching it early significantly increases the chance of beating it.

What testing methods are available?

In Australia, you can access care for ovarian cancer diagnosis and symptom assessment at:

  • A doctor’s clinic
  • A community health centre convenient to you
  • A women’s health centre
  • A family planning clinic
  • A sexual health clinic
  • An Aboriginal Medical Service or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service

Early detection is one of the top ways to save lives. With the most appropriate treatment options, it can significantly increase your chances of survival. Since there is no way to reliably and easily screen for ovarian cancer, it is more important than ever to be aware of the symptoms and work to reduce your risk.

What is ovarian cancer awareness month?

Ovarian cancer awareness month takes place every February in Australia. It serves as a distinct time during the year to focus on raising awareness about ovarian cancer, including how to detect it and how vicious it can be. The more Australians are educated about what to watch out for when it comes to ovarian cancer awareness, the greater chance we stand for mitigating the devastating effects of the disease together as a country.

OCAM is also a time to engage in advocacy.

Funding is of utmost concern when it comes to ovarian cancer research and treatment access for patients. You can get involved in helping to increase research initiatives, raise funding, strengthen laws and make treatment more affordable for everyone. It’s important that patients don’t have to advocate on their own on top of handling their cancer diagnosis. Supporting the community in February provides a great starting point for continued efforts year-round.

Supporting patients and those impacted by ovarian cancer is a key part of the month. Helping to make their voices heard, share information and increase awareness can save lives. 

One of the leading voices in OCAM is Ovarian Cancer Australia. Founded by those directly affected by ovarian cancer and inspired by the work of activist Sheila Lee, Ovarian Cancer Australia helps raise awareness of ovarian cancer and support those affected.

Support resources available

No one should suffer from ovarian cancer alone. Illness can be an isolating experience, but there is a community of support available. In addition to the resources and support provided by Ovarian Cancer Australia (for patients, families, carers, friends and health professionals, other resources include:

Everyone should be sure to exercise bodily awareness and not be afraid to seek the advice and knowledge of their healthcare providers for any concerns. Regular check-ups, health screenings and proactive visits to your local provider are particularly important. Stress-management techniques such as journaling, counselling, meditation and breathing techniques, as well as practising healthy lifestyle choices, including a balanced diet, staying active and getting good sleep, can help prevent and manage ovarian cancer and its effects. Staying on top of existing health conditions and automating steps such as script refills can also reduce stress and help you tune into your body.

How can you get involved in ovarian cancer awareness month?

So, how can you get involved? On top of keeping tabs on your own body and visiting your doctor for any worrying symptoms, you can help support patients with ovarian cancer by donating your time and money. 

Organisations that work in this field and through whom you can get involved include:

Donate to Ovarian Cancer Australia
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