Ovarian cancer otherwise referred to as the silent killer is one of the leading causes of death among the female population. The famous comedian Lynda Gibson died of ovarian cancer two years ago. Previous year ovarian cancer was the main cause of death of 800 Australian women. But the sad state is that the Federal Government, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, allotted only $3.8 million for research into ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a subtle disease. It is very difficult to detect. In the early stages the symptoms are very vague and are often ignored by the patient. Symptoms such as bloating, pressure on the pelvis, back pain and tiredness are common during the early stages of ovarian cancer. Stages one and two are considered to be early detection and can be cured if treatment is administered immediately. Late diagnosis more commonly results in stages three and four cancers, which are less likely to be curable. That is the reason why 800 of the 1200 women diagnosed each year die within five years.
An early detection test and public awareness can reverse the situation of ovarian cancer. But, without substantial research funding, it will be a long wait before there is such a test which could detect it presence in the early stage.
Many fund raising events are conducted as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Week. One such is the fund-raising walk/run. This attracted more than a thousand participants in an effort to raise $50,000. The proliferation of such events and of the selling of colored ribbons (silver for ovarian cancer) point to the urgent need to make up the serious shortfall in government and philanthropic funding for cancer research.
Though Australian scientists are leading the world its expenditure on health and medical research follows that of Canada, US, UK, Switzerland, France and Japan. The Australian Association for Medical Research also concluded by issuing a statement that public sector funding is continuing to decline by international standards. Hence therefore it is pivotal that such fun runs and ribbons are necessary to add to the research funding. This also has another advantage of making the participants to feel involved in finding a solution to the ubiquitousness of cancer. They ply a very important role in creating community awareness of diseases that are too often other people's private pain.
But these efforts will never be an adequate alternative for the sort of government funding that would enable scientists to undertake research with some certainty of employment beyond the year or two covered by grants. But unless the government intervenes and allocates funds competitiveness between hospitals will not cease to exist.
Professor Michael Quinn, director of oncology at the Royal Women's Hospital believes an early screening test could transform a cure rate of 30 % to 90 %. But it takes money which is why he has run sponsored marathons for years, raising almost half a million dollars to keep his team's research going.
Quinn also prefers the more systematic, government-supported research structure that encourages greater co-operation between hospitals and less duplication of equipment and work.