Press Release: Women Concerned About Developing Reproductive Cancers Yet Majority Are Unaware of Risk Factors or Symptoms

Washington, D.C. (September 7, 2005)—A new national poll of women in the United States found that a majority—54%—believe they are at personal risk for developing a gynecologic cancer, yet 58% are unaware of any factors that can lower their risk and 47% could not name any symptoms of gynecologic cancers.

The poll, which was commissioned by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) and Research!America, involved telephone interviews with 800 women regarding their understanding of and concerns about female reproductive cancers, or gynecologic cancers, including cervical, uterine and ovarian cancers. Other findings include:

  • Nearly half (46%) of women polled were not aware of any of the risk factors for developing a gynecologic cancer.
  • One in five (19%) could not name any test for female reproductive cancers, and only 3% mentioned a pelvic exam, which is recommended annually for women over the age of 18.
  • Of those who could name risk factors, 20% cited genetics or family history, and 11% mentioned exposure to certain viruses/STDs or having multiple sex partners.
  • Of those who could name ways to lower risk, 13% said regular check-ups/Pap tests, and 12% said a healthy lifestyle/diet.
  • Half (51%) of women said that, aside from their doctor, the Internet is where they would turn for information about reproductive cancers.

Complete poll findings are available at www.researchamerica.org.

“The poll findings show that women face a lack of knowledge about gynecologic cancers,” said Karl C. Podratz, MD, PhD, chairman of GCF. “Particularly alarming is that half of the women polled could not name a single symptom, since early detection is critical to successful treatment. In this case, lack of awareness leads to unnecessary deaths, so we must work even harder to educate women and help save lives.”

Helping Women Learn How to Maintain Their Health

As part of its activities during September, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, GCF recommends that women take four steps to inform themselves about gynecologic cancers and work to maintain their gynecologic health:

  • Get to know your family history,
  • Conduct an online risk assessment (visit www.wcn.org),
  • Ask questions and educate yourself about gynecologic cancers, and
  • Make an appointment for your annual gynecologic exam and be screened.

GCF provides additional information about gynecologic cancers through the Women’s Cancer Network at www.wcn.org and through its toll-free Information Hotline at 800.444.4441. GCF was founded on the premise that providing women with current information about gynecologic cancers will empower them to take appropriate steps to reduce their risks, and to seek early and appropriate care if symptoms arise.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 80,000 women will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer in 2005.

Investing in Women’s Health Research

The poll results also showed that women are united (98%) in the view that the U.S. should invest in research to prevent, treat and potentially cure gynecologic cancers. An equal number said it is important for the U.S. to invest in research designed to improve women’s health overall.

Among health issues of interest to women, 87% of women polled were concerned about cancer, 83% were concerned about heart disease and stroke, and 72% were concerned about osteoporosis. Of cancers that affect women, 84% of women expressed concerns about breast cancer, 70% about ovarian cancer, 68% about cervical cancer and 66% about uterine cancer.

“Research has produced many benefits for women’s health, and women clearly understand that,” said Mary Woolley, president of Research!America. “The U.S. must continue investing in health and medical research at a level that sustains the momentum we’ve generated thus far, to the benefit of women and men alike.”

Research!America is a not-for-profit, membership-supported public education and advocacy alliance founded in 1989 to make medical and health research-including research to prevent disease, disability and injury and to promote health-a much higher national priority.

The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation provides information on the leading types of cancer including gynecologic cancers—ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and cervical cancer. Visit www.wcn.org to read about cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer survivor stories and gather additional information on cancer statistics, graphs and charts, as well as clinical trials for cancer and new cancer treating drugs.

Research!America and GCF commissioned the Charlton Research Company to conduct a telephone poll in July 2005 among 800 adult women nationwide, using random-digit dialing methodology. A sample size of 800 yields a theoretical margin of error of ± 3.5 percent.

Spotlight

This special section in Self Magazine features a GYN surgeon and 34-year-old (at the time of diagnosis) patient.

Awareness

This year’s National Race to End Women’s Cancer aims to spread the word that all women should Love Your Ladyparts! Check out site’s new features and join the MOVEMENT.

Research

The Foundation’s research award winners will be notified in January. Thank you to all who sent in their applications.

Education

The next Gynecologic Cancer Survivors Course will be February 7-8 in Anchorage, Alaska. For more information on educational events and courses, click here.