70% of women could be ignoring symptoms of a disease that kills one woman every two hours in the UK

Dawn Bowden AM said “Ovarian cancer is another cancer where too many people ignore the symptoms and therefore miss the opportunity for early intervention”.

Dawn was reacting to news from the Ovarian Cancer Charity on World Ovarian cancer day.

A staggering 70% of women said they would hope general health symptoms such as bloating or fatigue would go away so they did not have to ask for time off work to see a GP, reveals new research commissioned by charity Ovarian Cancer Action.

With 82% of women unable to name the four main symptoms of ovarian cancer, Ovarian Cancer Action is concerned women are disregarding symptoms that could be a sign of a disease that kills one woman every two hours in the UK1.

Unsurprisingly, nearly two thirds (65%) of women would prioritise their children, partner and parent’s health before their own. Almost two thirds of women surveyed (65%) said they would encourage a loved one experiencing symptoms such as bloating or abdominal pain to book a GP appointment within a week, but less than half (41%) would take their own advice.

Time-strapped women said they would turn to the internet to research gynae-related symptoms (74%) or speak to a close friend (53%). The charity is urging women with persistent symptoms to talk to their GP.

Wednesday May 8th 2019 is World Ovarian Cancer Day and Ovarian Cancer Action has rallied an army of volunteers to hand out 33,000 white roses with symptoms cards attached in cities throughout the UK, representing the number of British women currently living with the disease. Volunteers hope to raise symptom awareness and share a message of hope – an early diagnosis could be lifesaving.2

Ovarian cancer is widely perceived as an older woman’s disease but it can affect a woman at any age. 27% of women wrongly believe cervical screening detects ovarian cancer – it doesn’t. There is currently no screening tool for the disease, so early diagnosis is vital.

The four main symptoms of ovarian cancer are

  • persistent stomach pain,
  • persistent bloating,
  • needing to wee more frequently and
  • finding it difficult to eat.
  • Other symptoms include fatigue, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel habits.

Misdiagnosis is common with ovarian cancer as its symptoms can be confused with other less-serious conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or the menopause. Currently, two thirds (65%) of females experiencing general health concerns such as bloating, stomach ache, increased fatigue or swelling would be likely to accept the diagnosis given to them from the GP without question if they were told by their GP that their symptoms were of no concern, or were less serious than they thought. Over a quarter (27%) of women would doubt if they had ever experienced their symptoms in the first place. Only 27% of women would ask another healthcare professional for a second opinion. Ovarian Cancer Action want to encourage women to trust their instincts and not ignore warning signs.

Anna Szalay was a second-year law student balancing lectures with a part-time job when she began experiencing symptoms such as back pain, bloating and fatigue. Having previously prioritised coursework over booking a GP appointment, her symptoms increased. Anna saw a number of healthcare professionals before being diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer at just 19 years old. Anna, said: “it took me so long to get diagnosed because I didn’t know the symptoms and neither did a lot of healthcare professionals – it only takes a minute to learn the symptoms but they can save someone’s life.”

Cary Wakefield, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: The UK has one of the worst ovarian cancer survival rates in Europe. To improve survival rates we need more research and better symptom awareness, which is why we are handing out 33,000 white roses this World Ovarian Cancer Day. It’s easy to ignore symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain if you don’t know they are symptoms of a potentially deadly disease. Listen to your body and head straight to your GP if something isn’t right.”

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