Needless deaths from UK’s deadliest gynaecological cancer could be halted by urgent government action, says a leading charity after new research shows consistently woeful symptom awareness among women.
The latest statistics were published a year after a major international study showed the UK has amongst the worst one-year survival rates for ovarian cancer in developed countries, a fact strongly linked to late diagnosis.
Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer who commissioned the Pathfinder Study said: “Women are dying needlessly every day because they didn’t know the symptoms of this disease before they were diagnosed with advanced cancer. Had it have been caught at an earlier stage their chances of surviving five years would have almost doubled.”
The charity pointed the success of recent national awareness-raising initiatives among GPs compared to the lack of similar public campaigns.
Annwen said: “The evidence is piling up. Women are being let down by the failure to act in the UK. We need a national awareness campaign now to end needless deaths from this disease.
“Of the 4,400 who die from ovarian cancer each year, 500 of those women would still be alive each year if we only match European survival rates.
“We are determined to see women at risk from ovarian cancer get a better chance of survival, we need to see continued improvements in GP awareness and kick-start women’s symptoms knowledge.
“Ovarian cancer does have early symptoms, and if caught early survival rates rise to 70 per cent. At the moment only 36 per cent of women will survive five years after a diagnosis because many are not diagnosed until the cancer is advanced.
“What’s needed urgently is a major national push of the kind that the Department of Health acknowledges has delivered impressive results in awareness of other cancers.
“We want a regional pilot immediately to replicate the success of the Department of Health’s bowel cancer campaign, which used a combination of TV, radio, leaflets and events to get the message across.”
“Success could be as simple and immediate as ensuring a leaflet about the symptoms of ovarian cancer is given to every woman having routine screening for cervical or breast cancer as part of planned wider regional pilot consisting of more tactics. Successful elements should then be rolled out nationally as in the bowel cancer campaign.
“Unless women know to be concerned about their symptoms, lives will continue to be lost unnecessarily”.