by Sellick Partnership | 23 March 2015
My Mum was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer towards the end of 2012 and sadly lost her fight with this disease in September 2013. As a result of what I saw my Mum go through I, undertook some research on ovarian cancer and soon discovered that very few women know or understand anything about this form of cancer.
Each year 7,000 women are diagnosed and 4,300 women lose their lives to this disease. Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death inwomen in the UK after breast, lung and bowel cancer. Surprisingly, only 3% of women in the UK are confident at spotting a symptom of ovarian cancer.
Delays in getting a diagnosis can be experienced due to a lack of awareness of symptoms amongst women and health professionals. Many women wait over six months for a correct diagnosis. Then when they do receive their diagnosis, the majority of women in the UK will have an advanced disease which can be difficult to treat. There have been no new life extending treatments in a long time and if what has been achieved in breast cancer in the last 20 years was also achieved in ovarian cancer, over 3,000 women would survive each year.
Many women confuse ovarian cancer with cervical cancer and it is important that women understand that a smear test does not detect ovarian cancer. A lot of women also believe the myth that ovarian cancer is a 'silent killer' - we need to move away from this thought process as research has shown that thereare symptoms that women can look out for.
The key symptoms to be aware of are:
- Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain
- Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating - not bloating that comes and goes
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms
Occasionally there can be other symptoms such as changes in bowel habit, extreme fatigue (feeling very tired) or unexplained weight loss.
If the symptoms are new (they are not normal for you and may have started in the last year), persistent and frequent (they usually happen more than 12 times a month) then go and see your GP. I'm not saying that if you experience these symptoms then you have ovarian cancer, however it is important to get checked out.
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and a lot of work is being done by organisations such "Target Ovarian Cancer”, a national ovarian cancer charity,who are dedicated to improving early diagnosis and raising awareness amongst women and healthcare professionals as well as funding national research intonew treatments for ovarian cancer and supporting women who have been diagnosed.
England has one of worst five year survival rates in Europe and late diagnosis has been shown to be a factor - this has to change. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, up to 90% of women would survive five years or more. Knowing and recognising the symptoms of ovarian cancer can save lives.
I undertake some voluntary work as an Awareness Ambassador forTarget Ovarian Cancer in my spare time as I'm passionate that all women have an awareness of the symptoms of this form of cancer. The more women that are aware of the symptoms, the more lives can be saved and survival rates can improve.
What will you be doing to ensure more women (and men) are aware of lasting effects of this awful disease? Let me know in the comments below..