The lifetime risk of a woman developing a gynae cancer is 1 in 20, so almost every Australian will have a close friend or relative affected. With only a 68% survival rate, a diagnosis of a gynae cancer comes with an unacceptably high mortality rate.
Every five hours an Australian woman affected by a gynae cancer dies
30 years ago, breast cancer had a 5–year survial rate of 72% and gynae cancer had a 5-year survival rate of 59%. By 2015, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer had increased to 90%, while the 5-year survival for gynae cancer was still only 68%. This means that the survival for gynae cancer is improving at only half the rate as breast cancer.
Well funded research has the ability to deliver very substantial improvements in survival. It’s that simple and every moment counts.
More than 5500 new cases are diagnosed each year in Australia. This is predicted to rise to 6000 new cases by 2020. These cancers represent 10% of all cancers in women, and cause 9% of cancer-related deaths in women.
Since the human genome project was completed in 2003, rapid progress has been made in cancer research, but progress has been slow for gynae cancers because comparatively little research money has been allocated to these cancers. By providing more charity research grant money, we will be able to attract more scientists to work in the field of gynae cancers.
The Cancer Council has observed:
“There appears to be a relationship between levels of direct research investment and improvements in 5-year relative survival… cancers which receive larger amounts of direct funding to research projects… have shown greater improvements in 5-year relative survival.”
Australia was one of the first countries in the world, after the United States, to recognize Gynaecological Oncology as a subspecialty of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Official recognition by the (then) Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RACOG) occurred in 1985, and training in gynaecological oncology was introduced in 1987. It takes 3 years of subspecialty training, following training in general Obstetrics and Gynaecology, to become a Certified Gynaecological Oncologist of the (now) RANZCOG. Gynaecological oncologists work as part of a multidisciplinary team in Gynaecological Cancer Centres in all capital cities in Australia, and in Newcastle. Outreach clinics are held in some large country towns. Gynaecological Cancer Centres employ specialised psychologists, social workers and nurses to ensure that survivorship is appropriately addressed.
Results of treatment for gynaecological cancer in Australia are comparable with the best in the world.
Early diagnosis of cervical cancer was improved when the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program was introduced in 1992, and this program has seen the incidence of cervical cancer fall by about 50%.
Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer remains an elusive goal, but research to find a screening test is ongoing. Research into many aspects of ovarian cancer is ongoing via the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, a large multicentre study which has accrued about 1500 patients. It is one of the largest ovarian cancer studies in the world.
The Australian and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG) conduct important clinical trials in collaboration with other clinical trials groups around the world, including the Gynaecological Cancer Intergroup (GCIG).
A lot of research is being done, but much more could be done with more financial resources. Money raised by the AGCF will be used to fund research, both through the ANZGOG clinical trials, and through laboratory research into the various cancers.