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Ovarian cancer outcomes worse in rural Australia

Researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have found that women in rural and remote areas of Australia have a higher risk of dying from ovarian cancer than those in richer, urban areas.

The team, led by QIMR Berghofer’s Dr Susan Jordan, analysed medical record information from the 1192 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia in 2005.

They found that only 35% of women lived for five years after being diagnosed, and for those who survived for two years after diagnosis, the probability of living a further five years was only 53%.

Dr Jordan said older women and those whose cancer was more advanced at the time of diagnosis had the poorest survival rates.

But other factors, including socioeconomic disadvantage, geography, ovarian cancer type, and existing illnesses were associated with a lower chance of survival.

“Compared with women from relatively socioeconomically advantaged areas, women from relatively disadvantaged areas had a 21% higher risk of dying during follow-up”, Dr Jordan said.

A similar difference was seen for women living in regional-remote areas versus major cities.

“This translates to a relatively small gap, but is something we need to be very conscious of in a wealthy country like Australia,” Dr Jordan said.

“Possible explanations include diagnostic delay and poorer access to recommended treatments, and we need to conduct more research to determine the exact reasons.

“Access to medical services is clearly an issue, but our results are also a reminder that women must be vigilant about their health, and should seek medical advice if they have persisting symptoms.”

“Those symptoms include: abdominal pain and swelling, changes in bowel habits, and increased frequency of urination”.

The study is published today in the Medical Journal of Australia and can be viewed at

This research was funded by the Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer. Data collection was funded by Cancer Australia, NHMRC, the Cancer Councils of Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, and the Cancer Foundation of Western Australia.