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Ovarian cancer survival rates rise

Five-year survival rates among women with ovarian cancer in England and Wales have nearly doubled to 41% in the last 30 years, according to Cancer Research.

The charity said its figure compares with the early 1970s figure of 21% of women with the disease still being alive after five years.

More than 1,000 women per year now survive for at least five years, although women diagnosed with stage III cancer, 45% of the total, still only have a 20% chance of living for that length of time. For women diagnosed with stage IV disease the figure falls to less than 6%.

Ovarian cancer often develops without obvious symptoms and is only discovered once it has started to metastasise, or spread.

James Brenton, from Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute, who treats ovarian cancer patients at Addenbrooke's Hospital, said: "These latest figures show improvements in treatment, such as centralisation of ovarian cancer surgery and uniform access to chemotherapy, are making a difference in helping more women survive ovarian cancer, particularly those who are diagnosed earlier.

"But we face a real challenge in translating these improvements in survival to women whose ovarian cancer has already spread."

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women. Each year around 6,500 British women are diagnosed with the disease, which in 2008 caused 4,373 deaths, despite mortality rates falling by 14% over the last 10 years.

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Cancer Research