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The Ovarian Cancer Postcode Lottery

Every year, 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer across the UK and 1 in 50 women will have ovarian cancer at some point in their life. While cancer doesn’t discriminate according to postcode, Target Ovarian Cancer research has found that women’s awareness of the symptoms, access to clinical trials and likelihood of surviving ovarian cancer can vary hugely according to where they live.

Shani

Shani's story

"No one asked if I had any other symptoms and I was told it was something that could be dealt with once I got back from holiday. However, on my return I went to see my consultant and he sent me for a scan. He phoned me the next day to say it was bad news."

On Tuesday 23 June, dozens of women with ovarian cancer and 81 MPs attend our Ovarian Cancer Postcode Lottery campaign launch in parliament. You can see photos from the launch event here.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is cancer arising from the cells in and around the ovary and fallopian tube. The four most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Having a bloated tummy
  • Needing to wee more often and/or more urgently
  • Having tummy pain
  • Always feeling full

Any woman who starts to experience any of these on a persistent basis, more than twelve times a month, should visit her GP. Women might also experience changes in bowel habit, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite.

Symptoms map

Knowledge is power

One in five women with ovarian cancer die within three months of diagnosis. It is vital that women know what the symptoms of ovarian cancer are so they can go to their GP as soon as they have concerns.

There are now national cancer awareness campaigns in England (Be Clear on Cancer), Scotland (Detect Cancer Early) and Northern Ireland (Be Cancer Aware), but as yet none have included a national awareness campaign for ovarian cancer (Wales has yet to launch either a general or site-specific cancer awareness campaign).

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign in England ran a regional ovarian cancer pilot in the North West in 2014. This proved extremely successful in raising awareness, with the number of women recognising feeling bloated as a symptom of ovarian cancer rising from 25 to 40 per cent among the key audience of women over 50 as a result of the campaign.

At the moment one in four women with ovarian cancer are waiting over three months from first experiencing symptoms before going to see their GP. We need to make sure every woman knows the symptoms of ovarian cancer so she can act. Target Ovarian Cancer is calling on all parliamentarians to support a national Be Clear on Cancer awareness campaign for ovarian cancer in England, with equivalent campaigns in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Accessing world class treatment

Clinical trials map

Clinical trials are not just essential to the discovery of new treatments for ovarian cancer, but they are also a benchmark of excellence in care.

Participation in a trial may mean receiving a new drug or form of treatment, or volunteers may be placed in the control group to enable researchers to measure the impact of the trial.

However, all trials require care to be provided at the highest possible standard and participation in a trial, regardless of whether it is in the test or control group, has been shown to lead to improved outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.

To help both women and clinicians find and access clinical trials, Target Ovarian Cancer launched its award winning Clinical Trials Information Centre in 2013. But more needs to be done.

Every woman should have the chance to access a clinical trial and the world class care and treatment this brings.

Target Ovarian Cancer is calling on MPs to write to their local Trust, NHS Board, Health Board or Health and Social Care Trust to ask what steps they are taking to ensure all women with ovarian cancer have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.

Surviving ovarian cancer

Every day 12 more women in the UK die of ovarian cancer and the UK survival rate is among the worst in Europe.

Survival map

We need more people to be making the case for improved awareness, investment in research, access to clinical trials and the step-changes in treatment that are needed if more women are to survive ovarian cancer.

Target Ovarian Cancer is calling on all MPs and peers to join the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer to help us transform the care and treatment for women with ovarian cancer today and for those we know will be diagnosed tomorrow.

What we're asking of MPs

Helping end the postcode lottery is simple. We need all parliamentarians to:

  1. Support a national Be Clear on Cancer awareness campaign for ovarian cancer in England, with equivalent campaigns in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  2. Write to your local Trust, NHS Board, Health Board or Health and Social Care Trust to ask what steps they are taking to ensure all women with ovarian cancer have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials
  3. Join the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer

More information