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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2163

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (16:45): I rise today in support of the member for Shortland's motion and endorse the comments from the member for Shortland, the member for Ryan and the member for Calwell. This is indeed a very important issue. It is an important issue not only because it goes to the health of many Australian women but because it is one of those areas where research is still being undertaken and there is so much yet to learn.

I have recently been appointed by Ovarian Cancer Australia as one of their ambassadors. It is a responsibility that I take incredibly seriously. What some people do not realise is just how devastating ovarian cancer can be. Each year, around 800 Australian women will lose their battle with ovarian cancer. That is one woman every 11 hours. What it is so concerning about this disease in particular is that there is no clear detection test. A lot of women think that if they have a Pap smear that this somehow is going to be an indicator for ovarian cancer, but this of course is not the case. More than 1,200 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year alone in Australia. That is three women every day—a very serious statistic. When you consider that one in 77 Australian women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime, it is clear that this is why we need to raise the national prominence of this devastating disease.

Despite all of the publicity around breast cancer and prostate cancer, ovarian cancer is actually the sixth most common cause of cancer death in Australian women. As was rightly pointed out by the members before me, it is important for Australian women to be very familiar with the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I am going to run through them because it is worth repeating. There are four key symptoms: abdominal or pelvic pain; increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating; needing to urinate often or urgently; and finally, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly. The problem is that these symptoms are quite common symptoms and a lot of women do not recognise that these symptoms are linked with ovarian cancer. It is critical that if women do experience these symptoms over time, and that they are new to them and persist for more than two weeks, they should consult their doctor and do so as quickly as possible.

Part of the reason that ovarian cancer has such drastic statistics in terms of life expectancy is that it is often discovered so terribly late. Seventy-five per cent of ovarian cancer sufferers do not survive the diagnosis. That is why medical research is so critically important and there have been some tremendous leaps in medical research as advanced by the team of amazing researchers at the Peter MacCallum, who are internationally recognised for their program. I would like to place on record my thanks to them for the significant work that they are undertaking right now. It is also important to note that research only happens with government support and assistance, as well as philanthropic assistance.

In my electorate of Higgins, just on the border, I am fortunate to have two incredible research institutes: the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and the Burnet Institute. They are part of the association of Australian medical health research associations. These research associations are very concerned to ensure that in the upcoming budget they continue to receive appropriate government assistance so that they can continue to undertake the important work that they do in health and medical research. We know that last year that medical health research budget was under threat and we hope that this year it will not be the same and that their funding is, in fact, safeguarded. So I think it is important to place on record that we appreciate the important work that they do, the important work of Peter MacCallum and the importance of this issue of ovarian cancer to all Australians.

Debate adjourned.