Ovarian Cancer Australia

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About Us

Ovarian Cancer Australia is the national charity representing women living with Australia’s deadliest female cancer. Every day, we provide essential care and support to women living with ovarian cancer and represent them by leading change through advocacy to government and advisory bodies to ensure increased, targeted funding and access to optimal care. Ovarian Cancer Australia is the only charity providing specialist holistic and personal care to women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

With a 5-year survival rate of just 49%, it’s estimated that over the next 5 years, over 9,000 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and sadly, too many of these lives will be lost.

The levels of psychological distress experienced by women with ovarian cancer are incredibly high, with women forced to deal with:
• the severity of their surgery and other treatments that can result in surgical menopause and loss of fertility
• how to tell their children about the impact of the disease will have on their family
• coping with changes in their body that impact on their sexual functioning and relationship with their partner
• the very real fear they experience when their cancer comes back, which unfortunately is a reality for the majority of women diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer

It’s no wonder that almost half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer experience clinical levels of anxiety and depression.

With your help, we can provide much-needed free, regular, and timely access to specialist ovarian cancer nurses and evidence-based support programs for more women living with ovarian cancer.

This year, your fundraising from Dry July will directly support our specialist Helpline nurses and our Psychosocial Support Team, supporting women to access a suite of free specialist clinics and evidence-based programs targeting exercise & nutrition, sexuality, grief and bereavement, fear of cancer recurrence, and sleep and fatigue.

By raising funds and going dry this July, you can ensure that women living with ovarian cancer can access the specialist support they need and deserve.

Latest Updates

Andrea's Story

Andrea was just 51 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

“It was a huge shock. The day after my diagnosis I had to ring my doctor’s office so I could double check that the results were accurate, I was just that incredulous,” said Andrea.

Prior to her diagnosis, Andrea was undergoing emergency surgery for a hernia that was blocking her bowel. After the surgery, Andrea noticed a lump protruding from her stomach, which, three months later, had not improved.

To investigate further, Andrea was sent for a CA125 test — a blood test that looks for a protein that can be produced by ovarian cancer cells. The results showed elevated levels of the cancer-causing protein which encouraged her treatment team to investigate further. Following surgery and a biopsy of the lump, the doctor confirmed that Andrea had ovarian cancer.

“At the time I wasn’t aware of any symptoms I was experiencing. I now know, looking back, the indigestion and bloating I was facing were both early signs. I just never thought these minor symptoms meant that I could have stage 4 cancer. I knew nothing about ovarian cancer up until this point,” said Andrea.

After her diagnosis in November 2019, Andrea had to wait an excruciating two months before treatment.

“The wait really did my head in. I kept thinking about this thing growing inside me and I needed to get it out. Because my tumour was so big, my treatment team decided I needed to undergo chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumour,” said Andrea.

Andrea said despite knowing that she was awaiting treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer, she tried to continue with her life as best she could.

“Initially, I kept going to work. My GP asked me ‘how are you doing it?’ and I told her that if I stayed at home I would have fallen in a heap. I didn’t have a choice. I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other so that I could stay upright,” Andrea said.

Following multiple rounds of chemotherapy, Andrea underwent a hysterectomy, including the removal of both her ovaries and some lymph nodes.

“Despite feeling really fatigued after surgery, I also immediately felt intense relief. I just thought, that’s it, the tumour is out, and I can get on with things. But that’s not always how things work out with ovarian cancer,” said Andrea

Following the surgery and while undergoing a second round of chemotherapy, Andrea began to experience an extreme pain in her shins. After some investigation, Andrea’s medical team told her the cause of her pain was blood clots, which needed further treatment.

Through a search on Google, Andrea came across Ovarian Cancer Australia, where she was put in touch with her own specialist ovarian cancer nurse, Rosetta.

“Rosetta is so knowledgeable and able to answer all and any questions I have, putting me at ease. It’s almost like she’s my sister.

“I don’t think I could do this without Rosetta. Friends and family can’t give you the kind of support she does. Rosetta is definitely made for this job,” said Andrea.

For Andrea, the thought of her three children, aged 15, 20 and 34, have motivated her to keep going.

“Having ovarian cancer is a series of setbacks. Every time you think you’re over the hill, there’s something else that happens.

“I can’t work anymore. I generally stick inside my four walls at home. The only time I go out is to see my father in aged care. I try every other weekend to catch up with my girlfriends, but fatigue often holds me back,” said Andrea.

Andrea said her message for people affected by ovarian cancer is to know that support is available.

“Despite what I’m going through, mentally I’m okay. I’ve actually surprised myself at how strong I’ve been, and Ovarian Cancer Australia have played a big role in that.

“There are resources out there to help you get through. Try and stay positive. Just get up in the morning and keep going,” said Andrea.

Jo's Story

In 2021, Jo was a healthy 42-year-old living an active lifestyle in Noosa, Queensland.

She had recently moved from Sydney, where she had been working as a video and digital producer across several big-name brands.

During a routine cervical cancer screening test (which does not screen for ovarian cancer), Jo’s doctor spotted an abnormality.

“My GP assured me that while it was likely nothing serious, she recommended I go for further testing, just as a precautionary measure. I was thinking my worst-case scenario could be a diagnosis of endometriosis,” said Jo.

After undergoing an ultrasound, Jo’s results showed a mass on each ovary. To her shock, further testing revealed elevated levels of a protein in Jo’s blood that indicated a possible ovarian cancer diagnosis.

“The only accurate way to diagnose ovarian cancer is through surgery and a biopsy, however my outlook wasn’t looking good. After I received my results, I was referred to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Brisbane for surgery.

“One moment I was having a routine test, the next I was undergoing a full hysterectomy, including the removal of my uterus and both my ovaries,” said Jo.

The surgery sent Jo into an early menopause. Afterwards she was put on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to compensate for some of the hormones her ovaries used to produce, easing the symptoms.

“While I never wanted kids, the realisation that I was about to have my last period was confronting. If I had wanted children, the whole process would have been incredibly traumatic,” said Jo.

“The scariest thing was that I had this thing growing inside me and I hadn’t noticed any symptoms. Looking back, I now recognise that feeling full after eating a small amount, needing to go to the toilet more often and painful sex were all minor symptoms that I was experiencing, but ovarian cancer just wasn’t something on my radar,” Jo said.

After surgery Jo was told that her biospy had revealed that her tumours were borderline and not cancerous.

“I felt so relieved that my doctor had picked up on them so early. I hate to think what might have happened if they’d been left any longer,” said Jo.

Following her diagnosis, Jo felt relief and was ready to move one. However, three weeks later, she was told that her surgeons had found cancerous cells in her omentum and she would need to start chemotherapy.

“I’m generally an optimistic person, but each time I went back to my doctors, it kept getting worse and worse. I was in complete disbelief. Most people think cancer is something that won’t happen to them, myself included. I just felt numb,” said Jo.

Jo's side effects from chemotherapy included peripheral neuropathy in her toes (weakness and pain from nerve damage), extreme fatigue, UTIs, nosebleeds, weight gain and trouble sleeping. However, Jo said it was the mental impact that affected her the most.

“I continue to experience a lot of trauma around my diagnosis. If I feel an ache anywhere in my body, I’m convinced its life threatening. I’m better at managing the anxiety now, but it’s still lingering,” said Jo.

When initially diagnosed, Jo reached out to Ovarian Cancer Australia for support.

“I was fully panicking when I was first put in touch with my ovarian cancer support nurse, Katherine. She was able to calmly talk me through my diagnosis and advocate for me. She gave me a sense of empowerment over my situation,” said Jo.

Jo also took advantage of Ovarian Cancer Australia’s other free services, including their exercise physiologist, dietician and sexual health clinician.

“I knew nothing about ovarian cancer before my diagnosis. There’s such a stigma around this disease. As women, we’re often taught to just ignore pain and push through. It's not good enough,” said Jo.

Please note, cervical cancer screening tests (or pap tests/smears) do not screen for ovarian cancer. There are no effective screening or early detection tests for ovarian cancer.

A CA125 test can look for a protein found in the blood that may be produced by ovarian cancer cells. However, there are other causes for raised CA125 levels such as menstruation, endometroisis or benign ovarian cysts. For this reason, it is not an effective screening test for ovarian cancer. 

Thank you for taking on the Dry July challenge for Ovarian Cancer Australia this year!

With your help, Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Psychosocial Support Team continue to provide a comprehensive range of clinical and psychosocial support specifically tailored to women with ovarian cancer.

This team includes counsellors, psychologists, a sexuality counsellor, and social workers who provide support for women experiencing anxiety and depression, sexuality and body image issues and financial toxicity.

As I'm sure you know, women with ovarian cancer have reported that the mental health tolls of this disease can be as challenging as the physical symptoms. It is vital that women have support in these areas as part of their treatment. Thanks to the funds raised during Dry July, our Psychosocial Team can continue to support women with ovarian cancer through these challenges.

Please know that these support services wouldn't be possible without people like you.

On behalf of women and families affected by ovarian cancer and all the staff at Ovarian Cancer Australia, we would like to thank you for your support in helping to ensure that no woman with ovarian cancer walks alone.

We’ve reached the $25,000 in matched funding from a generous Major Donor–thank you!

A very big thank you to the incredible OCA supporters who so generously donated to help us double our impact! Although donations are no longer being matched—we still need your help in the final days of the campaign.

Every dollar raised this weekend will help us reach our target of $300,000 and ensure that those diagnosed can access the psychological, practical and emotional support services they need and deserve. Together, we can make a huge difference to the lives of people affected by ovarian cancer so that no one with ovarian cancer walks alone.

We’ve reached the $25,000 matched funding!

A huge thank you to all the amazing OCA supporters who helped us reach the $25,000 matched funding! Donations are no longer being matched but we still need your help—every dollar raised throughout the rest of the month will make a huge difference for people affected by ovarian cancer. Let’s keep up the momentum!

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