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March - Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month #OCAM

23 Mar 2015

My Mum was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer towards the end of 2012and sadly lost her fight with this disease in September 2013. As a result ofwhat I saw my Mum go through I, undertook some research on ovarian cancer andsoon discovered that very few women know or understand anything about this formof cancer. 

Each year 7,000 women are diagnosed and 4,300 women lose their lives to thisdisease. Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death inwomen in the UK after breast, lung and bowel cancer. Surprisingly, only 3% ofwomen 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 awarenessof symptoms amongst women and health professionals. Many women wait over sixmonths for a correct diagnosis. Then when they do receive their diagnosis, themajority of women in the UK will have an advanced disease which can bedifficult to treat. There have been no new life extending treatments in a longtime and if what has been achieved in breast cancer in the last 20 years wasalso achieved in ovarian cancer, over 3,000 women would survive each year.

Many women confuse ovarian cancer with cervical cancer and it is important thatwomen understand that a smear test does not detect ovarian cancer. A lot ofwomen also believe the myth that ovarian cancer is a 'silent killer' - we needto 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 andgoes
  • 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 inthe last year), persistent and frequent (they usually happen more than 12 timesa month) then go and see your GP.  I'm not saying that if you experiencethese symptoms then you have ovarian cancer, however it is important to getchecked out.

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and a lot of work is being done byorganisations such "Target Ovarian Cancer”, a national ovarian cancer charity,who are dedicated to improving early diagnosis and raising awareness amongstwomen 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 latediagnosis has been shown to be a factor - this has to change.  Ifdiagnosed at the earliest stage, up to 90% of women would survive five years ormore.  Knowing and recognising the symptoms of ovarian cancer can savelives.

I undertake some voluntary work as an Awareness Ambassador forTarget Ovarian Cancer in my spare time as I'm passionate that all women have anawareness of the symptoms of this form of cancer. The more women that are awareof 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.. 

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