What are we campaigning for?
There is no screening tool for ovarian cancer, so it's vital women are aware of the symptoms if ovarian cancer is to be diagnosed early. Women need to feel empowered to go to their GP as soon as they notice something is wrong. But Target Ovarian Cancer research has found that too few women know the symptoms to look out for.
Awareness campaigns are a vital way of ensuring every woman knows the symptoms and has the best possible chance of survival.
What's happened so far?
- England: NHS England has launched the first-ever nationwide awareness campaign which includes ovarian cancer symptoms. Explore our journey spanning more than a decade of campaigning for this.
- Northern Ireland: The Public Health Agency ran an ovarian cancer awareness initiative. They also launched Be Cancer Aware to raise awareness of all cancers, although there has yet to be an ovarian cancer-specific campaign.
- Scotland: The Detect Cancer Early symptoms awareness-raising programme has featured ovarian cancer as part of the #MySurvivor campaign but has not been the focus on any standalone activity.
- Wales: To date there has been no specific activity on ovarian cancer. But in 2017 the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee produced a report calling for a public-facing ovarian cancer awareness in Wales.
Our campaigning journey in England
After years of working tirelessly with our incredible campaigners, NHS England launched the first-ever nationwide awareness campaign which includes ovarian cancer symptoms.
From our groundbreaking Pathfinder research to over 14,000 of you who signed our call to action – we did it! But it's been quite a journey:
- 2008: Target Ovarian Cancer is founded.
- 2009: The first of our groundbreaking Pathfinder report [PDF] is published, giving us a snapshot of every aspect of ovarian cancer awareness, diagnosis, treatment and care in the UK. We find that the general public has very low levels of symptoms awareness – this must change.
- 2010: The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ovarian Cancer is founded with Target Ovarian Cancer as the secretariat. Now we have a voice in the UK parliament, and one of the group’s key aims is to raise awareness of the symptoms.
- 2011: Target Ovarian Cancer and the APPG secure a major debate in parliament where the need for awareness campaigns is highlighted.
- 2012: Pathfinder 2012 [PDF] is published and finds that symptoms awareness levels are still very low. This, plus our parliamentary campaigning, leads Public Health England to make a landmark commitment to a local pilot of ovarian cancer symptoms.
- 2013/14: Be Clear on Cancer, a cancer awareness campaign led by Public Health England, launches the local and regional pilot campaigns they promised. The regional campaign includes the first prime-time TV advert featuring ovarian cancer symptoms, and sees a rise in both CA125 testing and GP referrals for suspected ovarian cancer.
- 2016: Our Pathfinder 2016 [PDF] report is published. We find that awareness of bloating as a symptom has increased, but recognition of the other symptoms remains low. We use the evidence to raise awareness across newspapers, TV news, and on social media, and to push for further national awareness campaigns.
- 2017: A Be Clear on Cancer regional campaign pilot launches in the Midlands. This campaign is different because it centres on general abdominal symptoms, including bloating. This campaign also provokes a rise in both CA125 testing and GP referrals for suspected ovarian cancer.
- March 2018: For Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month we reveal that half of women would make changes to their diet if experiencing persistent bloating (a key ovarian cancer symptom), rather than visiting their GP. The story features in newspapers, TV news and on social media, reaching millions.
- May 2018: The APPG on Ovarian Cancer publishes the results of the group’s inquiry into early diagnosis 'Diagnosing ovarian cancer sooner: what more can be done?' [PDF]. Among other things, the report calls for national awareness campaigns on the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
- October 2018: A Westminster Hall debate is held on the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer and Target Ovarian Cancer campaigners send over 1,000 emails to their MPs and local representatives asking them to take action.
- 2019: Our research, once again released for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, finds that one in five women mistakenly believe that cervical screening (smear tests) can also detect ovarian cancer. We work in partnership with Jo’s Trust to raise awareness of these two gynaecological cancers.
- February 2020: We publish our landmark report 'Time is running out: the need for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer' [PDF], calling for awareness campaigns on the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Over 14,000 people sign our call to action and hundreds of our campaigners call on their MP asking them to support awareness and early diagnosis.
- July 2020: We publish 'Voices of women with ovarian cancer: the coronavirus pandemic and its impact' [PDF]. The report once again highlights the urgent need for an awareness campaign as GP referrals for suspected cancer are dropping dramatically in the pandemic. Over 500 campaigners join us to ask their MPs to spread awareness. Donated advertising means we can include the symptoms of ovarian cancer in the Times and Sunday Times, and on billboards across the UK.
- November 2020: In a major move, NHS England announces the first-ever nationwide awareness campaign focused on abdominal symptoms. This includes the key ovarian cancer symptoms of bloating and abdominal discomfort (tummy pain).
How can you get involved?
Much progress has been made in raising awareness of ovarian cancer. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, many women are worried about contacting their GP with symptoms. We're calling on elected representatives across the UK to encourage women to speak to their GP if they think something is wrong.
Join us and email your elected representatives, or find other ways to help by using our campaigning toolkit.