Ovarian cancer has the poorest survival rate of all gynaecological cancers at 43%. The rising incidence (predicted 1640 per year by 2020) represents a growing burden for women in Australia. Awareness of ovarian cancer signs and symptoms, earlier detection, appropriate investigation and timely diagnosis are critical factors in achieving best outcomes.
The National Framework for Gynaecological Cancer Control (2016) identifies as a priority, “greater awareness of symptoms of gynaecological cancer, timely investigation and referral of a woman who may have symptoms… [to] improve earlier detection, enabling more timely treatment and improving the chances of long-term survival." McRae (2016) argued in a recent review article “improving outcomes for patients affected by cancer starts with undergraduate medical education curricula” and that despite “the impact of cancer in Australia being immense”, this is not “reflected in the time devoted to its teaching and learning.”
Survivors Teaching Students® is an experiential learning program for medical and nursing students. ANZGOG has launched this program in Australia to target both the identified priority areas: raise awareness of ovarian cancer signs and symptoms; and enhance learning opportunities in medical curricula. This consumer led program, developed in 2002 in the US (also now in Canada and UK) takes a pedagogical approach that focuses on broadening the student experience through engaging them at key learning points with women and caregivers telling their “real-life experience”.
STS demonstrates benefits for both students and survivors. The international data (2015) shows an increase in students’ knowledge and awareness of ovarian cancer (medical - 22%; nursing - 40% improvement). Qualitative data indicates survivors high levels of satisfaction, with significant benefits reported as: regaining control of one’s life, sense of purpose, hope and feelings of empowerment. The program demonstrates consumer's passion to make a difference for the future for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.