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Ovarian cancer diagnoses ‘will rise 55% in the next 20 years’

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By  Health editor

Global coalition says more must be done to treat ovarian cancer, which has the lowest survival rate of all female cancers

Ovarian cancer diagnoses are set to rise worldwide by nearly 55% in the next two decades, according to a global coalition that says more must be done to improve the poor outcomes.

Global survival rates range between 30% and 50%, says the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, which brings together patient organisations.

Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all the female cancers. In contrast, 10-year breast cancer survival in England and Wales is now 78%, having nearly doubled in 10 years. There have been far fewer breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

More women are being diagnosed with ovarian cancer around the world, mainly because they are living longer – the disease mostly affects women over 50 who are post-menopausal. In the developing world especially, many women die earlier than that, usually of infectious diseases.

Rapid population growth is increasing the numbers of women of an age to get ovarian cancer. A third factor is the shift from rural into urban areas, which has been identified as an influence but is as yet unexplained.

Ovarian cancer rates in the UK are expected to rise by 15% in the next 20 years. There has been a slowing of the rate of diagnosis, partly due to large numbers of women having gone on the pill in their earlier years, which is known to have a protective effect.

The global rise is a finding from the coalition’s 2018 Every Woman study. It includes a review of global ovarian cancer statistics, interviews with women and clinicians in a range of countries and a survey of women with ovarian cancer. More than 1,000 women in 39 countries have taken part.

Annwen Jones, the chief executive of UK charity Target Ovarian Cancer and co-chair of the study, said: “The projected rise in incidence of ovarian cancer is especially concerning because we still lack the means to diagnose it early and treat it effectively. This is a global problem that requires a global solution.”

Elisabeth Baugh, the chair of the coalition, said: “This study tells us that unfortunately ovarian cancer continues to lag far behind the many other cancers that have made good progress in recent years, like breast cancer.”