Ovarian Cancer Australia

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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

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!

Celine's Story

In June 2020 Celine, a 48-year-old mother of two children aged 10 and 13, began to experience some abnormal symptoms. Despite being young and healthy, Celine was feeling bloated, and her bladder felt unusually heavy.

“I visited a doctor who sent me off for an ultrasound which revealed a cyst on my left ovary. I was told to keep an eye on it, and just six weeks later, a second ultrasound showed that it had grown rapidly larger,” said Celine.

It wasn’t long before Celine was booked to undergo a laproscopy – a type of keyhole surgery – to remove the cyst.

“At this stage we weren’t worried, it was just supposed to be a routine surgery. I was young and healthy, so I didn’t think anything was going to be wrong,” said Celine.

The surgery wasn’t successful. The cyst burst and Celine’s surgeons sent the cells off for testing, which confirmed that the cyst was cancerous.

Celine then underwent a full hysterectomy to remove the cancerous cells. Following recovery, she was booked in for a routine CT scan ahead of her chemotherapy.

“That was when we became worried. The CT scan had shown that the cancer had spread all throughout my abdomen, likely as a result of the burst cyst during my laproscopy. I was told I had stage 4 ovarian cancer,” said Celine.

What followed, Celine describes as one of the most “stressful and terrifying” periods of her life. The mother of two underwent an intense period of chemotherapy, from which she became very unwell.

“I became a shell of myself. Each time I tried to eat I would vomit. I lost a lot of weight and became so weak. I had no idea what my outcome was going to be, I was just taking everything one day at a time,” said Celine.

During her treatment, Celine reached out to Ovarian Cancer Australia for support and joined an online support group where she met with women all across Australia who also had ovarian cancer.

“Living with an ovarian cancer diagnosis was very isolating, especially given the type of cancer I had was so rare. My cancer responded well to my chemotherapy, so my biggest concern became fear of recurrence. By connecting with other women with ovarian cancer and speaking to the nurses at Ovarian Cancer Australia, I felt less alone,” Celine said.

“We also had access to guest speakers who specialised in things like diet and sexuality while living with an ovarian cancer diagnosis, which helped me a lot,” Celine said.

Thanks to the support of the Dry July Foundation, OCA will be able to continue to provide psychosocial support to women like Celine, ensuring no one with ovarian cancer walks alone.

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