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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 179


Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (11:36): I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Shortland and to lend my voice to raise awareness to save lives and provide support to those impacted by ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death affecting women in Australia. February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout this month Ovarian Cancer Australia, the peak national body for ovarian cancer, will campaign to highlight the symptoms of ovarian cancer, to honour women who have lost their battle against this deadly disease, and to raise vital funds to support essential educational, support and advocacy programs.

Each year approximately 1,400 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Tragically, more than 1,000 Australian women die from this disease each year. Statistics from the New South Wales department of health show that between 2004 and 2008 the incidence rate of ovarian cancer on the Central Coast was 1.5 per cent higher than for the rest of New South Wales. During this period, sadly, 120 Central Coast women were diagnosed with this disease. Tragically, ovarian cancer's high mortality rate is due to the absence of a proven screening test.

Doctors who suspect ovarian cancer are able to perform a number of tests, including blood tests and ultrasounds, to assist making a diagnosis. Invasive surgery is the only definitive way to diagnose ovarian cancer. Blood tests may be used to monitor the CA 125 protein. This protein will be higher than normal in women with ovarian cancer. Other tumour markers called inhibin or CEA may also be present. But not all tumours will show in signs of these markers. Therefore, obtaining a diagnosis is a challenging task. In addition to blood tests, ultrasounds can be used to visually identify the presence of ovarian cancer.

The prognosis for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is generally poor, due to the advanced stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. An individual's prognosis depends on the type and stage of the cancer as well as the woman's age and general health at the time of diagnosis. The overall five-year survival rate for Australian women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is approximately 43 per cent. If the cancer is able to be treated when it is still confined to the ovaries, 93 per cent of patients will be alive in five years. Sadly, we see a significant drop in survival rates if the cancer spreads to surrounding tissues or organs, with only 39 per cent of women surviving this disease.

During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, it is essential that we highlight the symptoms and available treatment options. Unfortunately, for many women no symptoms present, or symptoms may be non-specific and include: persistent abdominal, pelvic or back pain; increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating; the need to urinate often or urgently; and fullness after food, weight loss and loss of appetite.

Every woman should be mindful of ovarian cancer and should be aware of these symptoms. Treatment options are dependent on the severity of the cancer. Surgery is used to determine the extent of the disease. When it is localised, surgery is used as a primary treatment. If the cancer has spread, surgery aims to remove as much as possible and this is followed by chemotherapy. While we do not know the cause of most cases of ovarian cancer, research continues both in Australia and abroad. In November 2014, Ovarian Cancer Australia launched their national ovarian cancer research strategy. Paula Benson, Chair of the Board of Ovarian Cancer Australia, describes the strategy as a 'blueprint for how Australia can best contribute to the global ovarian cancer research effort.' I encourage all sides of politics to work together to support those who are working to find a cure for ovarian cancer.

This motion starts the conversation amongst MPs regarding ovarian cancer. It is important that we keep this going. It is our duty to disseminate this knowledge to people in our electorates and to ensure that women are aware of the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer. I would like to acknowledge the women's cancer support group based on the Central Coast which offers support with gynaecological cancers. The group works alongside the Central Coast Cancer Council and provides support services at their office at Erina.

In Australia, a woman dies from ovarian cancer every eight hours. Every eight hours the life of a mother, daughter or sister is extinguished to this ruthless disease. I hope for the day when we have available widely accessible detection tests and effective treatments for this disease. It is important that we get behind organisations such as the Ovarian Cancer Australia. This February, help by participating in an afternoon tea, by baking a cake, by having a cuppa or by hosting an afternoon tea or a summer tea party for a great cause. I commend this motion to the House.