Every March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and this year research charity Ovarian Cancer Action has chosen the theme
Ovarian cancer isn’t as well-known as some other female cancers, yet it is the fifth most common - with more than 7,000 diagnoses in the UK each year. The UK has one of the lowest survival rates in Western Europe, with a woman dying from ovarian cancer every two hours, resulting in 4,300 deaths annually.
Ovarian Cancer Action says one of the reasons for the UK’s poor survival rate is that the disease is often spotted too late. The charity’s Chief Executive, Katherine Taylor, says: “Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose yet early diagnosis is crucial. When women are diagnosed in the early stages of ovarian cancer they have a 90% chance of surviving for more than five years but this reduces to 22% when diagnosed in the later stages.”
One obstacle to making the all-important early diagnosis is a lack of symptoms awareness. Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the silent killer as it’s sometimes said to be symptomless. This, however, is not true. The four main signs of ovarian cancer are persistent stomach pain, persistent bloating or increased stomach size, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and needing to pee more frequently.
Detecting ovarian cancer can be difficult due to the fact that these symptoms are vague and easily confused with other ailments. Stomach pain and bloating, for example, can affect us all. However, the key is persistence. If the symptoms are unusual for you, they don’t go away, and have started in the last 12 months, speak to your doctor. Women should feel confident about trusting their bodies and speak up if they feel something is wrong.
So, if you are experiencing symptoms and are worried it could be ovarian cancer, listen to your body and speak up. Book an appointment with your GP and ask for a CA125 test to rule it out.
The charity recognises that speaking up about your health can be difficult and has developed a symptoms diary to help women record their symptoms and take it to their GP. Search for ‘Ovarian Cancer Action’ in your phone’s app store, or download a paper version at www.ovarian.org.uk.