Raising awareness and lending a powerful voice to women with ovarian cancer to accelerate pace and progress


Dave Fredrickson Executive Vice-President, Oncology Business Unit

Awareness is even more important during a global pandemic

In recent months, the world has been focused on responding to one of the biggest health challenges of this generation. While communities have come together to support each other in ways that are truly inspiring, the COVID-19 pandemic has put cancer patients at even more risk, disrupting treatment and delaying diagnosis and cancer-specific testing. Cancer does not stop during a pandemic, and it remains one of the largest health threats worldwide even during the current COVID-19 climate. Now more than ever we need to support communication and education around the benefits of disease awareness, earlier diagnosis and access to the best available diagnostic testing and appropriate medicines. World Ovarian Cancer Day presents an ideal opportunity to shift the focus, for a moment, to a cancer type where awareness and early intervention can make a huge difference.

Despite ovarian cancer being one of the most common female cancers,1 its symptoms can often be confused with other less serious illnesses leading to up to four out of five women being diagnosed once the disease has already spread and chances of survival are greatly reduced.2,3,4,5 Sadly, it has one of the highest mortality rates of all gynaecological cancers and is three times as lethal as breast cancer.1,5 Although some progress has been made in terms of understanding of the disease and treatment, there is still a very long way to go in saving more lives from what has become known as ‘the silent killer’.6,7

At AstraZeneca, we are proud to support World Ovarian Cancer Day, which takes place on 8th May 2020. We strongly believe that we must push forward as a community to increase the pace at which progress is made in ovarian cancer outcomes.

It is shocking to see that according to the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s ‘Every Woman Study’ (2018), over two-thirds of women had not heard of ovarian cancer, or knew anything about it, prior to their diagnosis.8 Raising awareness of the disease is of paramount importance: when people are aware, they can recognise symptoms (in themselves or loved ones) and act sooner to receive an earlier (and therefore potentially life-saving) diagnosis. Certain types of ovarian cancer can run in families and genetic tests are available to help identify this yet the ‘Every Woman Study’ shows that 80% of women with two or more relatives with ovarian cancer in their family, had not had genetic testing prior to their own diagnosis.8 In addition, women are not always receiving genetic testing post-diagnosis, which is important to help clinicians select the most appropriate treatment option,8,9 and would otherwise help to identify others at risk in the family.8 In an era of precision medicine, testing for genetic abnormalities like homologous recombination deficiency including BRCA mutations is an essential component to optimising the treatment of women with ovarian cancer.

Improvements in earlier diagnosis, as well as accelerated access to the best available diagnostic testing and medicines, are achievable goals which could save countless lives At AstraZeneca, we know that these aren’t goals that we could ever reach alone, so we call on the whole community to help improve outcomes in ovarian cancer, to join us in raising our voices together this World Ovarian Cancer Day and beyond.

See below for some of the common symptoms of ovarian cancer. To find out more about World Ovarian Cancer Day and how you can show your support, please visit: https://ovariancancerday.org/


1. Momenimovahed et al. (2019). Ovarian cancer in the world: epidemiology and risk factors. International Journal of Women's Health, Volume 11, pp.287-299.

2. Cancer.org. (2019). Cancer Facts & Figures 2018 Special Section: Ovarian Cancer. Available at: www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2018/cancer-facts-and-figures-special-section-ovarian-cancer-2018.pdf  [Accessed May 2020].

3. NHS. 2020. Ovarian Cancer. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ovarian-cancer/ [Accessed May 2020]

4. Colombo et al. 2019. ESMO–ESGO consensus conference recommendations on ovarian cancer: pathology and molecular biology, early and advanced stages, borderline tumours and recurrent disease. Annals of Oncology. 30, pp.672–705.

5. World Health Organisation. IARC. 2019. Estimated number of deaths in 2018, worldwide, females, all ages. Available at: : https://gco.iarc.fr/today/online-analysis-table?v=2018&mode=cancer&mode_population=continents&population=900&populations=900&key=asr&sex=2&cancer=39&type=1&statistic=5&prevalence=0&population_group=0&ages_group%5B%5D=0&ages_group%5B%5D=17&nb_items=5&group_cancer=1&include_nmsc=1&include_nmsc_other=1  [Accessed May 2020] 

6. PharmaTimes. 2018. Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer. Available at : https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/specialty-pharmacy-times/2019/May-2019/Ovarian-Cancer-The-Silent-Killer [Accessed May 2020]

7. Debashis et al. 2018. Ovarian Cancer - The Silent Killer. Journal of Tumor Research. 

8. World Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Every Woman Study Summary Report. Available at https://worldovariancancercoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/WOCC-Every-Woman-Study-Summary-Report-Nov-08.pdf. [Accessed May 2020].

9. National Cancer Institute. 2019. Fewer Women with Ovarian, Breast Cancer Undergo Genetic Testing than Expected. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2019/ovarian-breast-cancer-testing-inherited-genetic-mutations [Accessed May 2020]

10. AstraZeneca. 2019. Moving Toward a Cure: AstraZenecas Commitment to the Lung Ambition Alliance. Available at: https://www.astrazeneca.com/what-science-can-do/labtalk-blog/oncology/moving-toward-a-cure-astrazenecas-commitment-to-the-lung-ambition-alliance-08072019.html [Accessed May 2020]

Veeva: Z4-24088
Date of Prep: 07/05/2020
Date of Expiry: 07/05/2022