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New cancer figures released for Northern Ireland

13 March 2019


Today saw the release of the latest, official statistics on cancer diagnosis and survival in Northern Ireland. The new data, released by the N. Ireland Cancer Registration, tracked the diagnosis, prevalence and survival rates for a range of cancer types across 25 years. We take a look at the figures and what’s changed for ovarian cancer in that time. 

One of the main headlines to come from the release of these new figures was that the overall number of cancer cases in Northern Ireland had risen by 15% from 2008 to 2017. This increase is largely because of the aging population - 63% of cancer cases were seen in people above the age of 65, with the incidence rate (the rate of new cases diagnosed) greatest for those who are 85-89 years of age.

Where does ovarian cancer sit within these numbers?

It’s a relatively rare disease, and most cases occur in women over 50

The NICR numbers show that most ovarian cancer cases in Northern Ireland occurred in women above the age of 50.

The new data also show that ovarian cancer is still fairly rare in Northern Ireland, and the odds of developing the disease are relatively low. The chance of having cancer before the age of 75 is 1 in 3.7 for women, whereas the probability of developing ovarian or fallopian tube cancer is around 1 in 66.

There was a drop in diagnoses over the past decade               

The number of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer decreased by 17% between 2008-2012 and 2013-2017. This drop in cases, along with the reported rise of fallopian tube cancer diagnoses, is thought to be due in part to more specific and better cancer classification at diagnosis.

It was encouraging to see a 22% drop in the number of cervical cases in recent years. This was linked to the success of cervical screening and the HPV vaccination. It’s important to see just how valuable early detection is in the care and management of cancer. Unfortunately in the majority of cases, ovarian cancer in Northern Ireland is still diagnosed at a late stage, which is typical of ovarian cancer diagnosis across the rest of the UK. It’s vital that we change this, and increase the proportion of cases caught at an early stage.

Early detection is key to better outcomes. One of OCA’s greatest priorities is to give women the best chance of survival by funding research into the prevention and early detection of ovarian cancer. Click here to find out more. 

Finally, survival has improved but is still low

Northern Ireland’s ovarian cancer survival rates have improved gradually over the past few decades, but it’s still behind compared to their average cancer survival rate. Ovarian cancer’s five-year survival has increased from 34% to 42% – a good but still fairly modest rise, as the odds remain lower than a woman’s average chance of survival when diagnosed with cancer (57%).

At Ovarian Cancer Action, we’re determined to make a real difference to ovarian cancer outcomes. Find out how we raise awareness and fund the research that will create a better future for women facing the disease here.