Why I frock

Last year when I heard about Frocktober, I thought it would be a fun way to Do Something Good, since I like wearing dresses anyway. I didn’t know anything about ovarian cancer at the time. But, since research is is my way of being, I soon found out quite a lot about it.

So this is why I’m doing Frocktober again this year:

  • Every 10 hours a woman somewhere in Australia dies from ovarian cancer.
  • About 1200 Australian women are diagnosed with it each year. The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) expects this to rise to almost 1500 in 2015.
  • Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer among women, and the second most common cancer of the reproductive system (after breast cancer).
  • Only about 40 per cent of those diagnosed at late stages survive more than five years. By comparison, there is an 88 per cent survival rate for women who get breast cancer.

(Stats from my research last year and the OCRF)

Part of the reason for these alarming statistics, particularly the poor survival rate, is that there’s no early detection test for ovarian cancer. While many people think it would get picked up in a pap smear, it does not — that only tests for cervical cancer. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are quite vague and generic — things like abdominal pain, cramps, swelling, gas, nausea — so they’re not really much help either.

But despite all of this, not many people know about ovarian cancer (like me a year ago). I don’t know anyone who’s had ovarian cancer (though I know several people who’ve had other types). I don’t know of any celebrities who’ve had it either, unlike Kylie Minogue, Jane McGrath or Cynthia Nixon battling breast cancer. The Pink Ribbon campaign is rather all-consuming and it’s what captures people’s attention and money. The National Breast Cancer Foundation predicts it will raise $24 million in the 2011/12 financial year. Since 2007, Frocktober has raised about $200,000. Total.

I don’t begrudge any of the money going to breast cancer research, and I can see that any research into one type of cancer is likely to benefit other types as well. But I think it’s important to remember there are other causes, other kinds of research out there too that need help. And that’s why I’m doing Frocktober again this year, to help out in my little way with a bit more money and a bit more awareness for ovarian cancer.

If you want to help out too, you can donate here.

Side note: I was rather excited this week when my Frocktober efforts were mentioned in the Senate. West Australian senator Michaelia Cash talked about both breast cancer and ovarian cancer and mentioned myself and a staffer who are wearing our frocks at Parliament House this month. You can read her speech here (starting page 59).


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