Several female political figures including Prime Minister John Howard's wife, Janette, and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley's wife, Susie Annus came together yesterday in a national push to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. The women visited hospitals in most capital cities.
Ovarian tumours have one of the highest fatality rates among all types of cancer, killing about 70 per cent of those diagnosed within five years. So far the disease is poorly understood and in the absence of any screening test, it is often not detected until it is too late. The national move was orchestrated by the Women's Cancer Foundation and The Australian Women's Weekly.
This move was followed by a Senate inquiry into all forms of gynaecological cancer. Democrats leader Lyn Allison had prompted the inquiry. She visited the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, and said there was ignorance among women and their doctors.
She added, "There has been something of a silence around the whole question. We want change. We want to see much more emphasis on gynaecological cancers both within the medical arena and at the national policy level."
According to Professor Michael Quinn, clinical director of the Women's Cancer Foundation, a central body had to be established in order to co-ordinate research, funding and education in gynaecological cancer and that until that happened "we are going to be in the dark".
Professor Quinn called for funding equivalent to that given to breast cancer research. It has been estimated that the National Health and Medical Research Council is funneling $12.4 million into breast cancer research this year, compared with $7.8 million for gynaecological research.
The Senate inquiry will conduct investigations on the screening and treatment programs, research, education, funding, and the needs of indigenous communities. There will be public hearings in Melbourne on Thursday. A report is expected by October 19.