During the pandemic, some of us may have felt uneasy about visiting our medical centres or GPs. In fact, the psychosocial effects of COVID-19 have been a significant factor in the declining numbers of cancer tests as the country dealt with lockdowns and the “new normal” we found ourselves in.
Fear of contracting the virus, economic burden and anxiety have deterred patients from seeking medical attention for new symptoms or from attending routine checks.
New Zealand has now seen testing and diagnosis numbers increase as we manage the virus and get on with life, but for women facing ovarian cancer, this may not be enough.
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In New Zealand, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of female cancer death, and one in 70 New Zealand women will be affected by ovarian cancer in their lifetime, yet there is no screening for the disease.
A visit to the GP can make the difference for early detection, so we’re asking you to get medical attention if you have concerns.
A cervical smear does not test for ovarian cancer, but if you have symptoms (such as pain, bloating, needing to urinate often, bowel habit changes and lethargy) there are tests for the disease — a CA-125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound. It is important to remember that most women with symptoms do not have ovarian cancer, but if testing does find cancer, early detection will make it easier to treat.
There’s also no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant effect on the mental health and well-being of patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
We’re here for you every step of the way – we help women find support, advocate for and raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and fund ovarian cancer research. Please reach out if you need to, and remember that you can – and should – see a doctor if you have any concerns about your health.
Don’t wait. Contact your doctor. Get checked.
OCFNZ started as Cure Our Ovarian Cancer in 2018, with a focus on low-grade serous ovarian cancer. In 2020, we expanded our focus to include all ovarian cancer and, in 2024, we changed our name to the Ovarian Cancer Foundation New Zealand.