News Releases

Study reveals shocking statistics regarding women and ovarian cancer

Most women cannot identify symptoms and know little about the deadly cancer

Toronto, September 7, 2005

A Decima Research study released today by the National Ovarian Cancer Association (NOCA) uncovers disturbing facts regarding women's knowledge of ovarian cancer, the most fatal of gynecologic cancers and a disease that kills over 60% of those diagnosed. These results are announced in the beginning of September as part of National Ovarian Cancer Month.

Of the women surveyed, 96% could not identify a combination of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. This finding is particularly worrisome because there is no screening test for the early detection of ovarian cancer, and women and their physicians must rely on symptoms to bring the disease to their attention. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, swelling of the abdomen or bloating, changes in urinary frequency, weight loss or gain, and nausea.

Other significant results from this benchmark study include:
  • 12% of women claim to have never heard of ovarian cancer
  • 1 in 3 women believe a Pap test screens for ovarian cancer, which is untrue
  • Women at higher risk for ovarian cancer due to age (50+) are significantly less likely to be aware of ovarian cancer than younger women.
The ovarian cancer awareness study was conducted earlier this year, with 1,373 women from across Canada participating; findings are significant at the 95% confidence interval (+/- 2.6%).

"This study confirms what we've always believed," says Elisabeth Ross, Executive Director of NOCA. "Canadian women have little information about ovarian cancer and the information they do have often is incorrect."

To increase women's knowledge of ovarian cancer and its symptoms, NOCA is launching a Canada-wide public awareness campaign. Entitled Turn Up the Volume, the campaign aims to reach women through high-energy radio, television and print public service announcements. Conducted in partnership with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance in the U.S., the campaign officially launches in both countries in September as part of Ovarian Cancer Month. The campaign's empowering Listen Up and Get Loud slogan encourages women and health professionals to pay closer attention to the subtle symptoms of ovarian cancer.

"It is absolutely crucial for women to be aware of these symptoms in part because the disease is so lethal," says Dr. Barbara Vanderhyden, the Corinne Boyer Chair in Ovarian Cancer Research at the University of Ottawa, and a member of the NOCA board of directors. "When women are diagnosed in the early stages, more than 90% can be treated effectively. Sadly, the majority of women are diagnosed later in the progression of the disease when the survival rate drops to 20%."

Each year, over 2,400 Canadian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 1,500 die of the disease annually, making it the most fatal gynecologic cancer.

NOCA recommends that women should see their doctors if they experience one or more of the symptoms of ovarian cancer that last longer than three weeks. Often women ignore their symptoms, as they are subtle and can be mistaken for other conditions. The risk of ovarian cancer increases among women who have a family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer; have never had children; are over 50; have never used oral contraceptives; or are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

To increase awareness of the disease and promote Ovarian Cancer Month, the National Ovarian Cancer Association is also hosting the NOCA Walk of Hope across the country on Sunday, September 11. Nine walks are set to take place in parks in St. John's, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Comox Valley, BC. The NOCA Walk of Hope has spread coast to coast over the past four years, and in 2004, 1,650 walkers raised over $275,000 for NOCA programs in support of women living with ovarian cancer.

The National Ovarian Cancer Association is a registered Canadian charitable organization founded in 1997. Dedicated to overcoming ovarian cancer, NOCA provides leadership by supporting women living with the disease and their families; raises awareness among the general public and health care professionals; and funds research to develop reliable early detection techniques, improved treatment and ultimately a cure.

Web links:
NOCA and Turn Up the Volume campaign:
NOCA Walk of Hope:,

For media information please contact:
Samantha Taus, Holmes Creative Communications
Tel: 416-628-5612

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