Help fund vital cancer research

Make a tax-deductible donation before 30 June

Cancer Council cautions: Pap tests don't detect ovarian cancer

Friday 6 February, 2009

During February, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Council Victoria is reminding all women that Pap tests do not detect or prevent ovarian cancer, a misconception believed by many women.

As both ovarian and cervical cancer effect the reproductive system, many women mistakenly believe both cancers can be picked up through cervical screening (the Pap test).

Director of Cancer Council Victoria's Cancer Prevention Centre Craig Sinclair said Pap tests check the cells of the cervix for unusual changes, changes that may develop into cervical cancer if left undetected.

"Pap tests do not detect ovarian cancer; unfortunately there is currently no viable screening test for the disease," Mr Sinclair said.

"Screening for cervical cancer is possible because the cervical cells pass through a series of detectable changes before they become cancerous. Treatment is usually simple and successful if cell changes are detected early, which is why it is so important for all women aged 18 - 69 to have a Pap test every two years," Mr Sinclair said.

The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre is urging women to be aware of possible symptoms of ovarian cancer which include abdominal bloating, abdominal or back pain, appetite loss or feeling full quickly, changes in toilet habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, indigestion or heartburn and fatigue.

While these symptoms are common and can be a part of every woman's life, women are urged to seek medical attention if these symptoms are persistent and unusual.

For further information about cervical cancer, Pap tests or to locate your closest Pap test provider please visit PapScreen Victoria's website at or call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

For further information about ovarian cancer visit the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC) website at

RSS icon Subscribe to RSS feed of Cancer Council media releases.