Ovarian cancer kills a woman every two days

Jane Ludemann has launched a petition to Parliament, asking for better education and testing...
Jane Ludemann has launched a petition to Parliament, asking for better education and testing around ovarian cancer. PHOTO: JOHN LEWIS
A Dunedin woman with ovarian cancer is calling on legislators and decision-makers to start taking the disease more seriously.

Jane Ludemann was diagnosed with low-grade serous carcinoma in 2017, and doctors gave her a life-expectancy of 5-15 years, based on available treatments.

While having ongoing treatment and surgeries, she has co-founded Ovarian Cancer Awareness NZ and founded Cure Our Ovarian Cancer, a charity that raises funds globally for research into her disease.

Now she has launched a nationwide petition to Parliament, asking for the development of ovarian cancer education campaigns for the public and health professionals, better access to testing for women with symptoms, improved access to approved therapies and clinical trials, and dedicated funding of research.

"It kills a woman every two days in Aotearoa New Zealand," Ms Ludemann said.

"Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynaecological cancer, and kills more women than New Zealand’s annual road toll, and more than melanoma.

"Yet it remains under-funded and largely ignored."

One of the most significant issues around ovarian cancer was the lack of knowledge about it, she said.

"Women don’t know the symptoms and leave it too long to report to their doctors, who themselves often don’t connect the symptoms with the cause.

"Next, there is no specific screening test for ovarian cancer - unlike a mammogram for breast cancer or a smear for cervical cancer — and providers use the excuse of funding to leave symptomatic women untested.

"Then we lack access to drugs that are proven effective overseas and to clinical trials which would allow women to access promising new treatments."

It was extraordinary that the Government spent more than $126 million on medical research through the Health Research Council every year, Ms Ludemann said.

"In 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, the HRC has not funded any ovarian cancer research at all."

To date, she has helped raise more than $300,000 to support research in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Her petition can be accessed at www.parliament.nz by searching for Ludemann on the petitions page.

The petition closes on October 11.

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