Ovarian Cancer Australia has launched its National Action Plan for Ovarian Cancer Research for 2020-2025.
With almost 1500 women diagnosed in Australia each year (and over 250,000 women worldwide) the mortality rate from ovarian cancer is high, with 1000 women dying from the disease each year in this country. Only 43 out of every 100 women diagnosed are still alive five years after diagnosis.
United for change
Ovarian Cancer Australia said the the new plan ‘outlines a collective approach for action to reduce the incidence, increase the survival rate and improve the quality of life of people diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia.’
The organisation says women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and their families are at the heart of the plan.
Caitlin Delaney is one of those women. She said, ‘I am extremely passionate about creating a better future for all those affected by ovarian cancer. This National Action Plan brings much-needed hope to me, my family and our community.
‘It brings together the knowledge and experience of leading scientists, professors and specialist health professionals who have been working tirelessly on this disease for decades. Together we are stronger. Together we stand a chance of rewriting the story of ovarian cancer.’
Ms Delaney said the key to unlocking the disease lies in collaboration between professional experts, those living with the disease, survivors and family members.
‘We need transparency and a clear unifying direction. We need to ensure that we focus on the right research, and that any advances are fast-tracked. We don’t have time to waste. I don’t have time to waste,’ she said.
Caitlin Delaney was diagnosed with stage 4 clear cell ovarian cancer in 2017. At the time her daughters were aged two and four.
‘A scientist myself, I was furious to discover that ovarian cancer was associated with grim statistics, a devastating lack of awareness, and, most critically, a significant lack of funding,’ she said.
‘I was envious of the more popular, better resourced, and consequently more successful cancer groups. I vowed to make noise about this disease and have since become a passionate advocate despite periods of gruelling treatment and recovery.’
After two and a half years cancer free, the disease returned in Caitlin Delaney’s liver and lymph nodes.
She said, ‘I am terrified and heartbroken. I desperately want to see my beautiful little girls grow up, and to grow old with my husband. Most people can take these hopes for granted. Ovarian cancer has robbed me of so much: my work, my health, my future.
‘The pain and grief I feel at the start of this recurrence, even now as I write, is unbearable. Although every woman’s journey is different: our hopes and needs are the same. We must see a significant increase in ovarian cancer funding,’ she said.
‘Only then can we hope to have a better understanding of the disease and improve treatment options, to help us live as long as possible.’
Further research needed
Ms Delaney’s hope is that with further research the disease can become a chronic illness rather than a death sentence.
‘Ovarian cancer is a lonely and isolating disease,’ she said. ‘We need specialised ovarian cancer nurses to support us through diagnosis and treatment. Implementation of patient, and family-centred care should be mandatory. Patients and families need psycho-oncology support, and our loving carers need help too.’
She said sufferers also need survivorship support to counter the feeling of abandonment after treatment, and more education for medical students and GPs on the diverse signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
‘What would 2025 look like for ovarian cancer if there is more than just hope?’ she wonders. ‘I believe that collaboration and campaigning can lead to a massive increase in funding and awareness, and subsequently huge progress in research.
‘I want to see the five-year survival rate on the way to being doubled. I hope, more than anything in the world, that I am around to see that.’
Ovarian Cancer Australia says it is grateful to all the women who participated in consultations to share insights and views which guided the development of the new plan, as well as researchers, clinicians and cancer health care professionals.
OCA said, ‘We’ve come a long way since the first National Action Plan 2015-2020 was launched, yet there is so much more we need to do to improve outcomes for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
‘We are working towards a world in which ovarian cancer outcomes are vastly improved.’