Photo of multiple copies of document entitled National Ovarian Cancer Report - Steps to Save Lives

National Ovarian Cancer Report

In September during Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, Cure Our Ovarian Cancer New Zealand submitted our Health Select Committee Report for consideration. It is the culmination of more than a year and a half of research and consultation with affected people, researchers, doctors, nurses and other specialities.

At over 145 pages it represents the most comprehensive report on ovarian cancer in New Zealand ever published.

The report paints a damning picture of the current situation in New Zealand and creates a compelling argument for significant changes in the way ovarian cancer is diagnosed, treated and researched within New Zealand.

The full report is available here: Ovarian Cancer National Report – Steps To Save Lives

A lot of the content makes for difficult reading and may be triggering for some people – 1737 is a free counselling service available 24/7 if you need to talk to someone about the emotions the report raises.

What happens next?

The Health Select Committee is gathering feedback from relevant ministries government agencies. Once this is complete, Cure Our Ovarian Cancer will have an opportunity to make a presentation in person to the committee.

We are also looking for volunteer advocates to visit their MP and share a copy of our report. If you would like to learn more please get in touch please use the form below:

Send a message below to learn more about becoming a volunteer advocate

Thank you to our contributors

We want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to this report. In particular the 76 people who shared their experience of ovarian cancer. We cried a river of tears when reading them. Your words were raw, beautiful and compelling. We asked for your help to show politicians the human side of this disease and you overwhelmingly responded. It was a privilege and honour to be trusted with your voice.

Thank you too to the many cancer specialists, GPs, nurses, researchers and other specialists who took time out of their busy day to speak with us, review our submission and make comments and suggestions and write letters of support. Your contributions were invaluable in translating research to our local NZ environment to ensure a robust, pragmatic report.

And thank you to the many individuals and organisations who wrote letters of support – including many health professional organisations, patient advocacy groups, cancer charities and to Phillida Bunkle and Sandra Cooney for contributing the foreward. Sometimes ovarian cancer seems like the most ignored cancer. It is truly heartening to know others are seeing, hearing and supporting our call for change.

To our many supporters who promote our organisation, donate and fundraise – without you, we wouldn’t exist to do this crucial work. Your support makes this possible.

To the government – it is now in your hands. Our women and families have waited long enough. Now is the time for change. As we say in our report – the only thing we can’t afford to do is nothing.

Executive summary of our ovarian cancer report:

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynaecological cancer and the deadliest. It accounts for more than half of deaths from all gynaecological cancers combined.

Māori and Pacific people have an increased incidence of ovarian cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, and with rarer ovarian cancers. Māori are also 62% more likely to die of ovarian cancer than other ethnicities.

Delays in diagnosis are all too common with significant barriers for women to access testing. NZ has the worst emergency ovarian cancer diagnosis rates of comparable health systems. 42% of women diagnosed via the emergency department (ED) will be dead within a year compared to 17% diagnosed via primary care. Almost half of all NZ women are diagnosed via ED.

Even with a prompt diagnosis, chronic disproportional underinvestment in research means survival rates are poor compared to many better funded cancers. Ovarian cancer survival is less than half that of breast and prostate cancers, despite ovarian and prostate cancer survival being similar in the 1970s. In the past 20 years, deaths in New Zealand from ovarian cancer have increased by 46%. This is almost double the rate of prostate cancer, and nineteen times that of breast cancer.

At a global level total ovarian cancer research investment is less than New Zealand’s spend on road safety despite the road toll killing less women than ovarian cancer in New Zealand alone.

New Zealand’s five year survival of 36.3% has improved the least of comparable health systems and is one-sixth less than Australia’s survival of 43.2%. Australia diagnoses women quicker and fund significantly more treatments, clinical trials and research.

Ovarian cancer is a serious women’s health issue that has not yet received any public or political recognition.

As members of the health select committee you have a historic opportunity to right this wrong and save the lives of future generations of women.

Key Recommendations:

Immediate Priorities

Seriously consider a research and clinical trials proposal of $50 to $100 million over ten years to improve survival rates
Reduce time to diagnosis through symptoms education through the cervical cancer screening program, national guidelines for primary care, targeted ultrasound funding and a national diagnosis audit to monitor the impact of these initiatives

Intermediate Priorities

Significantly increase Pharmac funding and remove GST from unfunded treatments
Resource the public system sufficiently that they can administer privately funded treatments