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Four Kiwi women feature on famous London billboard to raise awareness about ovarian cancer

Four Kiwi women diagnosed with a deadly rare cancer have featured on London’s most famous billboard as part of an international campaign.

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Co-organiser Katie Wilkins told 1 NEWS she "couldn't be prouder". Source: 1 NEWS

Jane Ludemann, from Dunedin, joined forces with 29 women from around the world in a photo montage campaign on the iconic Piccadilly billboard to draw attention to ovarian cancer, a disease she says lacks vital research funding in New Zealand.

"Ovarian cancer has been ignored for too long, both on an international scale and a local one," the 32-year-old told 1 NEWS.

"Women are dying for no good reason and it's time for ovarian cancer to get the investment and resources it desperately needs."

In 2017, the former optometrist was diagnosed with a variant of ovarian cancer called low-grade serous.

Low-grade doesn’t imply good outcomes. Women are frequently young, and fewer than half will be alive nine years after diagnosis.

Ludemann’s had two surgeries since she was diagnosed with the rare disease four years ago.

She takes daily medication often used by patients with breast cancer or prostate cancer.

"It puts me in a severe form of menopause - I lost 10 per cent of my bone density in the first nine months. I can't have children."

In New Zealand, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of death in women, killing one every 48 hours.

Auckland woman Alisi Jack-Kaufusi was diagnosed with the disease four years ago after experiencing fatigue, bloating and pain during intercourse - symptoms she says she were later signs of ovarian cancer.

"It felt like the life out of me had been drained. It was soul-crushing," she said.

"Having to rely on treatment for the past four years to give me more time is confronting and scary."

The now 28-year-old of Tongan descent says she wants her voice to shine a light on a disease she believes remains taboo and stigmatised, especially in Māori and Pasifika cultures.

"My message is to our Kiwi women or Māori and Pasifika sisters that please listen to your body!

"You know your body best, it can be confronting to go to the doctor and talk about our womanly health issues. However, ovarian cancer can happen to anyone like it has to me."

The billboard with the important message ‘An ad you can’t miss, for a cancer you do’ dominated central London for 10 minutes and will appear on more than 350 sites across the UK.

It will also feature on billboards in Times Square to mark World Ovarian Cancer Day.

The campaign speaks to the urgency of the situation in that women with cancer have gone to such lengths to be heard.

UK co-organiser Katie Wilkins, who was diagnosed last year at the age of 38, became emotional as she stood in central London and watched the billboard appear.

"The reality is there’s not enough funding and not enough research into this variant of low-grade serous ovarian cancer," she told 1 NEWS outside Piccadilly Circus.

"The campaign today is all about raising that awareness and trying to improve the amount of research that happens, the funding towards that research and ultimately the outcomes for women who are diagnosed like myself."