Ovarian cancer - do you know the symptoms?

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March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and North Lincolnshire Council and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust are joining forces to raise awareness of the symptoms women should look out for.

Knowing the symptoms can save lives. Target Ovarian Cancer’s Start Making Noise campaign kicks off on 1 March, which the council and the trust are supporting.

Over 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the UK, and it remains the biggest killer among the gynaecological cancers, with 4,100 deaths each year.

In North Lincolnshire each year on average 20 women are newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 12 women die each year.

More than half of ovarian cancer cases each year are diagnosed in females aged 65 and over.

An estimated 21 per cent of ovarian cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors and other risk factors, including smoking (three per cent).

Recent research by Target Ovarian Cancer shows an alarmingly low awareness of the symptoms among women over 50 – who are most at risk. Just one in five can name one of the key symptoms of ovarian cancer, bloating.

A similar proportion can name a second symptom, tummy pain, and even few can name the final key symptoms as always feeling full (three per cent) and needing to wee more (two per cent).

Throughout March, Target Ovarian Cancer is calling on people across the UK to Start Making Noise and help save lives by raising awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Earlier diagnosis is crucial – and the more women know the symptoms, the more likely they are to visit their GP sooner, increasing their chances of being diagnosed at the earliest stage.

The three main symptoms in women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are:

Increased abdominal size and persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)

Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain

Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous

Needing to wee more urgently or more often

If you regularly experience any of these symptoms, which are not normal for you, it is important that you see your GP. It is unlikely that your symptoms care caused by a serious problem, but it is important to be checked out.

Councillor Carl Sherwood, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer can make a huge difference and could save lives. If you have any of the symptoms, it is important you go see your GP as soon as possible. Quite often it won’t be anything serious, but it is always best to check and have that peace of mind. It isn’t worth the risk of ignoring the symptoms.

“The Start Making Noise campaign aims to get more women diagnosed early and increase the rates of survival. Help us spread the word and raise awareness of the symptoms.”

Seamar Bhullar, clinical nurse specialist for gynaecology/oncology at Scunthorpe General Hospital said: “Most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in women who have gone through the menopause but younger women can also be affected so please look out for the symptoms. The sooner ovarian cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Survival rates in the UK can be up to 90 per cent for women diagnosed early on.

“I would encourage women to be aware of what is normal for them. Ovarian cancer symptoms are frequent; they usually happen more than 12 times a month, persistent; they don’t go away and new; they are not normal for you and may have started in the last year.

“If you are worried please do not hesitate to visit your GP. If you are diagnosed then once you are referred to the hospital you will be ably supported by our team of specialists so that you never feel you are struggling alone.”

Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Everyone can do their part this Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Join us, Start Making Noise and we will reach a point where every woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, when the disease is easier to treat and survival rates are highest.”

CASE STUDY:

Mavis Nyman-Denzel, aged 73, shares her story about “cancer, the word we all dread hearing”.

Mavis was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2015, she said: “After having a pacemaker fitted in August 2015 I felt pretty good and was starting to enjoy life again. Then – I noticed that my tummy was unusually swollen. I have never had a problem like this before, so I exercised to try flattening it, but doing this created a horrendous pain in the right side of my tummy. Apart from this, I felt absolutely fine.

“I went to the doctors as I thought I had ripped a muscle. My GP was not happy so did some blood tests and the results came back very quickly (thanks to my GP). It showed I had cancer. My GP was fantastic. Within a couple of days I was at Scunthorpe Hospital in front of a gynaecologist, who was brilliant. I was taken into hospital there and then.

“After tests I was told it was a rare type of cancer that would be treated as ovarian cancer. You sit there listening to the words but I didn’t feel as though they were talking about me. When my husband visited me that day I had the job of telling him; he aged 10 years in front of me. It was then I realised how hard it hits everyone in your family. My husband told our son and granddaughters. All were so supportive and positive, which helped me to keep positive. You need your family so much and they need to understand what you are going through both mentally and physically – don’t shut them out.

“The journey through the cancer treatment started and I felt that I was being punished for something, but kept a smile on my face for my wonderful family and those hard working nurses and doctors. I had to have chemotherapy before I could have an operation for ovarian cancer. The chemo makes you feel so poorly, but what you have to remember is that every session is a step forward to getting well.

“I had my operation at Castle Hill Hospital in Hull in February 2016. All the staff were so caring and looked after me very well. I had a full hysterectomy, and my gall bladder, appendix and the film that covers all your organs had to be removed. Then there was more chemotherapy that led to more nausea.

“After my second lot of chemotherapy, I had my meeting. My heart was in my mouth and my eyes never left the gynaecologists face, trying to read what he was going to tell me, and then there was a smile and I heard the words ‘all clear’. I felt so many emotions, I couldn’t say what I felt, but elated that I could go home and live my life. Not only for me but my husband and son; it had affected them as much as me. My eldest granddaughter’s words still ring in my ears ‘you’ll be fine Nan, you are made of strong stuff’, those words have stayed with me and I do try to live up to them.

“If it wasn’t for my husband and son, I wouldn’t have made the journey so well. I also had great friends who showed how much they cared, which helped a lot.

“I now enjoy every day, even the wet and cold ones. An illness like this makes you see things through new eyes. Even looking at a flower, is like looking at it for the first time.

“Something I say to all of my friends and family, I would say to anyone is if you feel something is wrong, go see your doctor and ask for a blood test. It only takes 10 minutes and that 10 minutes could save your life. Cancer is sneaky; don’t let this terrible disease win.”