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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 177


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (11:31): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness among Australian women of the symptoms of ovarian cancer; and

(b) each year 1400 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and more than 1000 will die from the disease—that is one woman every 8 hours;

(2) notes with concern that the prognosis for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is generally poor due to the advanced stage of most ovarian cancers at the time of diagnosis;

(3) acknowledges that there is no screening program or detection test for ovarian cancer, and that the Pap smear will not detect the disease;

(4) recognises that:

(a) ovarian cancer is not a silent disease and that all women experience symptoms, even in the early stages of the cancer; and

(b) the four most common symptoms are:

   (i) abdominal or pelvic pain;

   (ii) increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating;

   (iii) needing to urinate often or urgently; and

   (iv) difficulty eating or feeling full quickly;

(5)   understands that every Australian woman needs to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer; and

(6)   notes the need for greater focus on education and additional research funding to help Australian scientists to find early detection markers and more effective treatments for this disease.

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It is an illness that not many people really understand. Over a quarter of Australians know somebody who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Only half of Australians know that ovarian cancer exhibits some significant symptoms. According to a recent study 1,400 Australians are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and over 1,000 of those will die. Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women's cancer. Only 43 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will be alive five years after diagnosis, in comparison to breast cancer, where a five-year survival rate is 89 per cent. Over half of Australians still wrongly believe that a Pap smear can be used to detect ovarian cancer, and a third believe that most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive.

The study also showed that women over the age of 50 were most commonly affected by ovarian cancer—although that does not preclude young women from developing ovarian cancer. I will talk about one such young woman in a moment. Around one-third of the respondents incorrectly believed that the human papilloma virus vaccine would protect them against ovarian cancer—not true. Only one in 10 Australians knew that the oral contraceptive pill actually reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. This is least well known among women aged over 50, with only five per cent of that age group responding correctly. Without early detection, without understanding or recognising the signs, ovarian cancer is a death sentence.

As I mentioned, February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In awareness month we need to focus on those symptoms which, if experienced by women, are an indication of ovarian cancer. The four key symptoms of ovarian cancer include abdominal and pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently and a feeling of being full after you have eaten. So it is a disease that has subtle symptoms. Unless a person is really attuned to those symptoms and aware of those symptoms, they will not notice them. As I mentioned earlier, it has the lowest survival rate of any women's cancer.

I am sure every person in this chamber today knows somebody who has died from ovarian cancer. I had a very close friend who died a few years ago from ovarian cancer. Jeannie Ferris, a senator in this parliament, died of ovarian cancer. Recently I attended an ovarian cancer function with Carol Bear, whose daughter Kylie was only in her 30s when she died of ovarian cancer. She has developed a very positive way of trying to perpetuate Kylie's memory. Kylie was a member of the Marching Koalas in the Hunter region. She was a very bright young woman who had just been married. Carol is making bead bracelets in Kylie's memory.

There is no easy recognition of ovarian cancer, and there is a need for greater awareness. There is a need for more research. I would like to encourage every member in this house today to have an ovarian cancer afternoon tea. February is the month when this happens. I am actually holding one on Friday, 7 March. I encourage members to go back to their electorates and have one of these afternoon teas to raise awareness of ovarian cancer.