No one ever really wanted to come to dinner at Francesca Hung's house growing up. If they did, they might be in for an uncomfortable conversation. "Over the dinner table, we will talk about every single bodily function you can imagine," the E! News host told ELLE Australia with a laugh. "Nothing is off limits."
It might be a squirmy dining experience, but it meant Francesca and her brother were never in the dark about serious health issues, or put off getting a niggling symptom checked out because it was a bit embarrassing. That's what happens when you have a radiologist for a father.
"I go to my dad about my women's health issues, which a lot of girls might feel very awkward to talk to their dads about," Francesca said. "But it's their job, and it's their profession. So I've always been comfortable going for my tests and going to the doctors, and always looked at [medical professionals] like it's their job. It's just like having your plumber into the house – although that's maybe not the best analogy – but it's a thing you need to do all the time."
It's why Francesca has joined Witchery's White Shirt campaign, which in partnership with the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) raises funds in the hope of developing an early detection test for ovarian cancer. "It's such an insidious disease, it's a silent killer," Francesca said. "One woman dies from ovarian cancer every eight hours, and there's no early detection test. What Witchery are doing to raise vital funds, it's something that it's a no brainer to be a part of. If I can do my bit to raise awareness, I'm there."
Now in its 14th year, the White Shirt Campaign has raised more than $14.3 million to date. It's a desperate fight against a disease that kills more than 1,000 Australian women each year. There's no early detection test (contrary to popular belief, a pap test won't flag it), meaning that most women (70%) are only diagnosed in the advanced stages. Just 29% of these women will survive beyond five years.
"We have a long history of cancer in our family and our friends, but they've been fortunate enough to 'get on top' of cancer, because they've been able to detect it or get treatment at early stages," Francesca said. "So to imagine that ovarian cancer doesn't have that early detection test just scares me completely."
There are no obvious signs of ovarian cancer, but some of the most commonly reported symptoms are persistent bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, feeling full after eating a small amount, and needing to urinate often or urgently. Other symptoms include changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, excessive fatigue, lower back pain, indigestion or nausea, pain during sex, and bleeding in-between periods, after menopause, or after sex.
If you're thinking that many of these symptoms sound common for women (or indeed anyone assigned female at birth, including some trans men and non-binary people), then that's exactly the problem.
"That's the trickiest thing," Francesca said. "Because the symptoms are so vague, they can present, as we say, as normal women's issues that we all suffer from. I've been fortunate enough to have a dad that's very in tune with women's issues. And so whenever I've had something that I've felt is maybe a little bit off, or I'm complaining about cramps, he's always been the one person to go, let's investigate that. I think that needs to be the norm, rather than dismissing women for these issues."
When joining the campaign (alongside powerhouse women like Lisa Wilkinson, Hanan Ibrahim, Jesinta Franklin, and Life Uncut's Brittany Hockley and Laura Byrne), Francesca sat down with her dad and asked him what he's seen in terms of ovarian cancer.
"My dad's a radiologist, so by the time he gets a scan, he's been given a referral to do a pelvic sonogram, and he's always looking out for ovarian cancer," she said. "But he said that it's really important that GPs (or referring doctors that someone first goes to with these symptoms), those doctors need to be made aware of ovarian cancer and the vague ways people can present. He said that it's a disease that requires vigilance and awareness on the part of the doctors, so they can refer patients early."
For the 2022 Witchery White Shirt, the brand tapped Australian designer Michael Lo Sordo to design it. It's only the second time in the campaign's history that Witchery have collaborated with a designer, last year working with Toni Maticevski.
"I am thrilled to be able to design this year's White Shirt in collaboration with Witchery," Lo Sordo said in a statement. "Having admired the campaign for many years, it gives me an immense sense of pride to contribute to an exceptionally worthy cause."
He designed the shirt with longevity in mind, using a single shirt pocket and curved hem to create something timeless and simple.
Ranging from sizes 4 to 20, the shirt will be available to buy from Wednesday 19 April right through to Sunday May 8, with 100% of the gross proceeds donated to the OCRF.
White shirts are a staple of anyone's wardrobe — if you need an update, why not choose one to support a great cause?