OVARIAN CANCER ISN ’ T AT THE TOP OF EVERYONE ’ S RADAR WHEN IT COMES TO FEMALE CANCERS , AND YET IT IS THE SIXTH MOST COMMON , WITH MORE THAN 7,000 DIAGNOSES IN THE UK EACH YEAR . ADDITIONALLY , 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 . IT ’ S TIME WE ALL GOT A LITTLE MORE CLUED UP .
ANGELA ’ S STORY
Every March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and this year , research charity , Ovarian Cancer Action , has chosen the theme ‘ Listen In !’ to remind us all to listen to our bodies and act upon anything we feel is unusual - the importance of which Angela Walker knows all too well .
Angela decided to visit her doctor after experiencing unusual symptoms . “ I ’ ve always lead an active life , so when , aged 46 , I felt lethargic to the point of exhaustion , my stomach was bloated and going to the toilet was a nightmare , I went to my GP ,” she says . “ I was advised to see a dietician , but my bloods were okay and my diet was healthy , so I asked to see a specialist . Soon I was taking 48 painkillers a week to deal with the stomach pain .”
Unable to wait three months to see a consultant , Angela took matters into her own hands and made a private appointment . Unsurprisingly , the results that came back were a shock . “ I was diagnosed with a large tumour over both ovaries ,” says Angela . “ I had been expecting to be told to eat more prunes !”
In spite of the diagnosis and thanks in part to her positive outlook and family ’ s support , Angela is still very much here , with a smile on her face , to share her experience . “ My mother was a marvel and stepped into my shoes whenever needed ,” she says . “ Also , my family and friends never failed to overwhelm me with their love and care , cards , flowers , phone calls , concern and , of course , shepherd ’ s pie !”
SYMPTOMS AND AWARENESS – TIME TO LISTEN IN !
Ovarian cancer is a disease that kills more women than the other gynaecological cancers combined and Angela ’ s story highlights how crucial it is to take notice of changes in your body in order to catch it early .
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 : “ When women are diagnosed in the early stages of ovarian cancer they have a 90 per cent chance of surviving for more than five years , but this reduces to 22 per cent 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 due to a belief that it ’ s 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 since 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 . It is particularly important to be symptom aware as there is no routine test for the disease ; ovarian cancer will not be detected by a cervical smear .
Women should feel confident about trusting their bodies and take action 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 .
Ovarian Cancer Action recognises that speaking up about your health can be difficult , so the charity has developed a symptoms diary to help women record their symptoms , which they can take to their GP . Search for ‘ Ovarian Cancer Action ’ in your phone ’ s app store , or download a paper version at www . ovarian . org . uk .