SALT LAKE CITY — Women with ovarian cancer in Utah have access to quality care, but a lack of laws capping co-payments and the unavailability of local support groups for patients has earned the state a 33rd-place ranking in a national report.
"Every state has room for improvement when it comes to women with ovarian cancer," said Cara Tenenbaum, vice president for policy and external affairs at the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, which released the report Wednesday.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012, about 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the United States — about 150 of them will be in Utah. Up to 15,500 women will die of ovarian cancer this year, suggesting that mortality rates have not improved much in the past four decades when work has been concentrated on the eradication of cancer.
An early detection test for ovarian cancer is not available and symptoms can be vague, including bloating, pain and abnormal menstrual cycles, among others.
California led the states, followed by Maryland and Wisconsin. Utah tied with Hawaii at No. 33 in the country. And the most barriers to care were found in Wyoming and North Dakota, according to the report.
An advisory committee of experts in policy, women's health and oncology examined laws, policies and programs available in all states and ranked them according to overall scores from four broad categories, including access to care, available education, patient quality of life and research.
The report states that women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Utah may be financially vulnerable when it comes to paying for treatments, as well as lack much-needed education aspects to help those diagnosed to deal with the disease. Ovarian cancer is also not a part of the state's cancer plan.
A lack of support groups in the state create a void for the psychosocial needs of women with ovarian cancer, according to the report. The alliance recommended that states offer a tax incentive to biotechnology, to encourage more research on the issue.
Along with the report, which can be found at www.ovariancancer.org/report-card, the alliance issued a call for state action, urging lawmakers and advocates nationwide to work together on improving care for women with ovarian cancer.
"One way legislators in Utah could support women with ovarian cancer is by updating the state's cancer plan to include elements about this disease," Tenenbaum said, adding that the report aims to "start a conversation" about the cancer, which affects one in 71 women in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death in women.