Guest Blog by Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer
In March every year, women with ovarian cancer, their family and friends, the ovarian cancer charities, health professionals, corporates and more all come together for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – to raise awareness and funds for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer can be devastating. Far too many women are diagnosed late, once the cancer has already spread, making treatment more difficult. But we know that when a woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, her chance of surviving ovarian cancer for five years or more doubles from just 46 per cent to more than 90 per cent, which shows why early diagnosis is so vital.
There have unfortunately been very few drugs developed for the treatment of ovarian cancer in the past 20 years, and there is an urgent need for progress. If we matched the achievements in breast cancer in the last 20 years, over 3,000 more women would survive each year. This is why, very early on as a charity, we launched a UK-wide research grants programme specifically for ovarian cancer.
Over a quarter of women are diagnosed through emergency presentation – meaning they are diagnosed very late, with more invasive treatment and lower survival chances. This figure is falling, as a result of the fantastic work that has already been done, but it is still unacceptably high. I speak far too often with women who have been diagnosed late. It is their stories, not the statistics, that give me the passion for improving early diagnosis, for raising awareness.
This March, we’ve launched a campaign to make noise and shout out about the symptoms, because early diagnosis saves lives. So before I go any further, here they are:
- Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s your tummy and below)
- Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual
These symptoms will be frequent (happening more than 12 times per month), persistent, and new to you. Anyone who is regularly experiencing these symptoms should see their GP and explain that they are concerned about ovarian cancer.
Women who are concerned about ovarian cancer should try to keep a diary of how they are feeling – using our Symptoms Diary app or downloading a version from our website.
During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this March, we’re asking everyone to Start Making Noise: #StartMakingNoise. Shout about the symptoms. Early diagnosis saves lives. We’re asking everyone to make a noise about the symptoms – to share them on social media, to tell your friends. We have a range of fundraising activities too – you could Bake Some Noise, or Dress Louder to raise money. Whatever you choose to do, please make sure that you and your loved ones are aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Late diagnosis is a major issue for women with ovarian cancer and their families. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month gives us all an opportunity to come together to make women and GPs more aware of the symptoms and the vital importance of early diagnosis. It’s so essential that we all work together to make sure every woman in the UK has the best, rather than the worst, chance of survival.
The UK’s leading ovarian cancer charity, Target Ovarian Cancer works to improve early diagnosis, fund life-saving research and provide much-needed support to women with ovarian cancer.
2020health’s policy work on Cancer includes an event recently held in Westminster on ‘Personalised Medicine‘ which included a section on cancer drugs. Through its other work, it has also advocated for the need to improve early diagnosis and treatment.