Only the lucky ones feel pain.
For most women with ovarian cancer the symptoms will be more subtle and not too unusual.
Survivor Margaret Rose had been feeling tired and bloated for some time before her diagnosis 20 years ago. But it was excruciating pain that eventually drove her to the doctor.
“Women must listen to their bodies,” she said, marking Teal Ribbon Day for ovarian cancer awareness on Tuesday.
“I had a couple of months where I knew something was wrong with me.
“I was excruciatingly tired and I was getting this bloating. One day I just got a terrible pain, which was a lucky thing for me because it is a silent killer.
“You normally don’t get pain from it.”
Most women with the disease are diagnosed late, and only 43 out of 100 are alive after five years.
Around 1000 Australians are expected to die from the disease in 2014.
That’s why Ms Rose, a property developer, is helping to fund promising research by Sydney’s Garvan Institute aimed at developing an early detection blood test.
“Being a survivor I feel extraordinarily lucky and I have a mission to try help in some way.”
Garvan scientist Dr Goli Samimi is making progress with her research but says a viable test is about 10 years away.
“The message in the meantime is the importance of awareness and early detection.
“The symptoms are common in women. But it is worth being checked out if they persist, particularly if there is a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.”
There has been little progress in treatment since the 1970s, said Ovarian Cancer Australia CEO Alison Amos.
Announcing a national action plan against the disease, she said: “We need to up the ante. We need to ensure discoveries progress quickly to clinical trials so new treatments can be developed.”
Cancer Australia CEO Professor Helen Zorbas has used Teal Ribbon Day to launch an awareness video titled No One Knows Your Body Like You Do.
“It’s important for women to be aware of the most common symptoms of the disease so they can identify and act on any persistent changes that are unusual for them,” she said.