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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2160


Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (16:31): February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and tomorrow, 29 February, is Teal Ribbon Day, a day where the issue of ovarian cancer is raised within the community, and a day that is put aside for fundraising for research into ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer affects a significant number of women in Australia. One in 77 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in Australian women, and ovarian cancer has an enormous impact on a number of women. Like many people in this parliament, I have known people who have had ovarian cancer. I had a very dear friend who ended up dying from ovarian cancer, and when that happened it made me very aware of the fact that ovarian cancer is one of those diseases that women are not very familiar with.

Ovarian cancer is a very silent sort of cancer, one that creeps up on people. As a result of that, diagnosis tends to happen at a later stage and the disease has advanced by the time it is finally diagnosed. But there are some signs: abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, a need to urinate often or urgently, and difficulty eating or feeling full very quickly. Women may experience some of those symptoms from time to time, but if they continue for longer than a two-week period then they should consult their doctor.

As I have mentioned, the outcome is generally poor for women who suffer from ovarian cancer. Research has been done into it and there has been a slight improvement in the outcome for women suffering ovarian cancer. For women aged from 40 to 80 there has been a slight decline in the loss of life. But when women over 70 are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it tends to be more aggressive and at a later stage and their prognosis is not very good. Similarly, for women under the age of 40 the outcome tends to be a lot poorer.

As I mentioned, there has been improved survival rates and that has given increased hope to women diagnosed today. A better understanding is needed of the biology of ovarian cancer. There is a need for a test that would lead to early detection. You cannot go and have a Pap smear. You cannot go and have a single test to determine that you have ovarian cancer. As I mentioned, the Pap test and other tests do not work.

Earlier I said that 800 women were diagnosed per year with ovarian cancer. That was back in about 2006. That has now increased to 1,200 women a year being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. That is 800 women who will actually lose their battle with ovarian cancer each year. So it is a significant number of women who are affected by it. Tomorrow is Teal Ribbon Day, and it is very important that we get behind it and support it and encourage research into this very slow, disastrous form of cancer that impacts on so many women in our society. I know that all members of this House will get behind Teal Ribbon Day. Wear your ribbon tomorrow and attend breakfast in the morning.