Australian women's awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms, risk and protective factors, and estimates of own risk
To examine Australian women’s perceived risk of ovarian cancer, reasons for perceived risk levels, and knowledge of ovarian cancer symptoms at two timepoints (2003 and 2007).
A computer-assisted telephone (CATI) survey of 2,954 Australian women with no history of ovarian cancer was conducted.
Approximately 60% of women perceived their risk of ovarian cancer was similar to other women of their age; 10% indicated an increased risk, and 30% indicated a lower risk. These figures were similar in 2003 and 2007. Logistic regression found that lower income, increased age, being born overseas, and being retired were significantly associated with lower perceived risk (accounted for only 7.5% of the variance). Common reasons for higher perceived risk included family history of ovarian/other cancers, increasing age, and having had other types of cancer or health problems. Reasons for lower than average risk included absence of family history, having a hysterectomy, and having regular Pap smears (indicating confusion between ovarian and cervical cancer). There appeared to be substantial confusion in women’s understanding of ovarian cancer symptoms; this was similar in 2003 and 2007.
The observed misperceptions and confusion regarding ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factors suggest ongoing public education campaigns are needed to improve knowledge and awareness