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We’re Meeting With The Health Select Committee To Call For Urgent Action

4 copies of our ovarian cancer report on a desk

On Wednesday, 19 July, we are meeting with the Health Select Committee at parliament to call for the urgent improvements to the diagnosis, treatment and research of ovarian cancer that are needed to help save women’s lives.

Misdiagnosis, a lack of funded treatment and clinical trials and a lack of research are all problems we highlighted in our submission to parliament last year. We are frustrated that simple steps the government could take to improve the state of ovarian cancer in NZ continue to be overlooked. 

One action we would like to see quickly implemented is the incorporation of ovarian cancer symptoms education into the cervical screening program so women know what symptoms to look out for.

As the leading cause of gynaecological cancer death, ovarian cancer kills more women than all other gynaecological cancers combined, including cervical cancer. Every week in New Zealand, seven women get diagnosed, and five women die of the disease. 

Our founder, Jane Ludemann, says the situation is tragic. “Women are being failed in the worst possible way.” New Zealand has the worst emergency diagnosis rates of comparable health systems, and survival rates lag behind Australia, with just 36.3% of women surviving five years compared to 43.2% in Australia.

“It breaks my heart to hear all the stories of wāhine visiting their doctor again and again, only to be told ‘it’s nothing serious’, ‘it’s just constipation’, or a mental health problem without adequate investigation.” 

Ovarian cancer can only be detected by a CA-125 blood test and ultrasound. Official information act requests by the charity in 2021 found that women can have waits of more than several months for ultrasounds, and in some situations, GPs referrals get declined. 

Jane says that once diagnosed, most women receive the same treatments as women diagnosed with ovarian cancer thirty years ago. Newer treatments such as Bevacizumab and Caelyx have languished on Pharmac’s waiting list for over ten years despite being funded in Australia, while clinical trials in New Zealand are almost non-existent. 

“It’s difficult for ovarian cancer to compete with scarce Pharmac funding against diseases which receive significantly more research and investment.”

Ovarian cancer is the least survivable women’s cancer, with survival rates less than half those of breast and prostate cancer. Jane says improvements in survival rates have been slow due to a lack of research. 

A Te Aho o Te Kahu report found that ovarian cancer received the least funding of any cancer funded by the Health Research Council. It is also disproportionately underfunded overseas.

We want to see ovarian cancer symptoms education added to the cervical screening program, funding for ultrasounds, additional treatments funded, more clinical trials to be made available, and an investment of five to ten million dollars a year in research.

“It might seem like a lot to ask for at once, but these changes are well overdue. Too many women have died waiting. It’s time we finally do something about it.”

You can watch the livestream of the presentation to the Health Select Committee at Parliament via their Facebook page at 8:35 am on Wednesday, 19 July.

 

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.