Five Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every day, but without an early diagnosis test and a grim five-year survival rate, awareness undergarments are our best defense this Mother’s Day.
Nicky Buckley’s beloved mom Joan died of ovarian cancer 16 years ago, and the model and presenter has been raising awareness of the insidious disease ever since. This Mother’s Day coincides with World Ovarian Cancer Day, which makes it especially touching for her mom of three.
Every day in Australia, five women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and two out of three will not have even heard of it beforehand.
Research from Ovarian Cancer Australia found that compared to other common cancers, 31% of Australians say it’s the one they know least about.
Symptoms, such as bloating and abdominal cramps, are vague and often misdiagnosed, contributing to a five-year survival rate of just 48%.
Buckley’s mother was in her 60s and it was difficult to get a diagnosis because her first symptom, significant swelling, was easily dismissed.
“Things got worse; she started taking tests, but by the time they discovered the cancer it was too late, ”Buckley said.
At 56, Buckley is aware that he is only a decade from Joan’s age when she died. The TV personality is vigilant about her health because there is still no early diagnosis test.
“I know many women in the past have heard that a pap smear has detected this, but it doesn’t, it’s for cervical cancer,” she said.
Jane Hill, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia, believes early screening tests will improve survival rates.
“Research has been done for the past 30 years, but it’s likely it will take some time before we can get it,” Ms. Hill said.
“Ovarian cancer is a group of different types of cancer, most of them are very aggressive and when someone has a symptom it is very likely that the cancer has spread.
“Moms are saying to me, ‘Jane, I’m worried my daughter or son won’t remember who their mom is.’
One of those moms is Kerrie Lee Simmons of Caboolture in Qld. She was diagnosed last year at just 42, when her youngest son was only two years old.
The mother of four had heard of ovarian cancer but knew nothing about it. When she experienced symptoms including recurrent urinary tract infections and a frequent urge to pee, she attributed the problem to having four children.
“I couldn’t look at my baby without crying,” Ms. Simmons said. “I apologized to my older children for interrupting my life. I felt guilty, as if I had let them down.
“I was worried about my teenage daughter: she could carry the gene and someday this could be her.”
An early diagnosis test could save her daughter’s life, which is the idea behind the Take on Cancer in Your Undies campaign. Buy a pair of teal underpants from Bonds, Jockey, Bras N Things and Coles and 100% of the profits will go to Ovarian Cancer Australia.
“Panties make a great Mother’s Day gift because they are personal, practical and they represent a cause,” said Ms. Hill.
“The campaign is very simple: grab your panties and talk to the people around you about ovarian cancer because it can affect all women.”
Coles’ general manager of corporate affairs Sally Fielke said it’s the first time the supermarket has been selling teal underwear and Ovarian Cancer Australia hopes to double the amount raised from last year’s campaign.
“By purchasing a pair of teal underwear, customers will help raise awareness, reduce stigma and ultimately improve the lives of women living with ovarian cancer,” she said.
This Mother’s Day through Tuesday 24 May, Australians are encouraged to tackle cancer in their underwear by purchasing teal Bonds underwear, available at 630 Coles supermarkets across Australia.
Originally published as What Mother’s Day means since ovarian cancer took Star’s mom