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March - Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

04 Mar 2014

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 started some research on ovarian cancer and 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. After breast, lung and bowel cancers, ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in women in the UK. Only 3% of women in the UK are confident at spotting a symptom of ovarian cancer. 

Women with ovarian cancer often experience delays in getting a diagnosis due to a lack of awareness of symptoms among both women and health professionals. Many women wait over six months for a correct diagnosis. When they 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 over 20 years - 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 it is not and that there are 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
- Needing to wee more urgently or often than usual

Occasionally there can be other symptoms such as extreme fatigue or unexplained weight loss.

If the symptoms are new (they are not normal for you and may have started in the last year), persistent (they don't go away) and frequent (they usually happen more than 12 times a month) then go and see your GP.

I'm certainly not saying that if you experience these symptoms then you have ovarian cancer however it is important to be checked out.

There is a currently a "Be Clear on Cancer” campaign for ovarian cancer running in the North West of England which includes tv and radio adverts. March is also Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and a considerable amount of work is being done by organisations including "Target Ovarian Cancer,” who are dedicated to improving early diagnosis and raising awareness amongst women and healthcare professionals as well as funding national research into new treatments for ovarian cancer.  

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. The more women that are aware of the symptoms, the more lives can be saved and survival rates can improve.

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