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Global challenges for women with ovarian cancer

Friday October 19th, 2018

Most women with ovarian cancer had never heard of the disease before they were diagnosed, a global study has revealed.

The World Ovarian Cancer Coalition Every Woman Study, the largest review detailing experiences of women with ovarian cancer, has found that there are low levels of awareness of the disease, which results in delays for seeking medical help.

The survey, which questioned more than 1,500 women in 44 countries, also showed that a lack of awareness among doctors could also be a significant factor with regards to a delay in diagnosis. Variations in access to genetic testing and specialist treatment have also been highlighted.

The study, which was launched ahead of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2018 Congress, Munich, Germany, found that nine out of ten of women experienced symptoms prior to diagnosis and that of those, eight in ten consulted a doctor. However, less than half visited their GP within a month and one in ten waited six months.

Globally, diagnosis took an estimated average of 31 weeks from a woman experiencing symptoms. However, diagnosis was confirmed more than a year after visiting a doctor for one in ten women.

The study said while there are examples of best practice in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer across the world, but there is no one country that excels in all three areas.

Germany has the fastest diagnosis, although half of women are unlikely to receive specialist care, while the UK has fewest women diagnosed within a month of visiting a doctor and almost universal access to specialist clinicians.

Researchers found that awareness of the disease is high in Canada and although women seek medical support, diagnosis is slow. In Japan, awareness is very low and fewer women consult their doctors, but they diagnosed faster than in other countries surveyed.

Elisabeth Baugh, chair of the Coalition and CEO of Ovarian Cancer Canada, said: “We wanted to find out more about the experiences of women with ovarian cancer and identify what needs to be done right now to tackle this marginalised cancer. The results show that this is a global challenge that can only be taken on by the whole community.”

Annwen Jones, CEO of Target Ovarian Cancer in the UK and co-chair of the study, added: “This study, for the first time, provides powerful evidence of the challenges faced by women diagnosed with ovarian cancer across the world, and sets an agenda for global change.

“We were especially shocked by the widespread, woeful lack of awareness of ovarian cancer. It is vital that urgent steps are taken in every country to raise awareness of the disease and speed up diagnosis so that we can transform the outlook for the increasing numbers of women and their families affected by ovarian cancer around the world.”

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Women's Health & Gynaecology | World Health

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