March Marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
As March is marked as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and May 8th is World Ovarian Cancer Day, we wanted to help to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease.
The earlier ovarian cancer is detected and treated, the better the chances for women to recover. Unfortunately, as the Ovarian Cancer Information Ireland website states, currently there is currently no reliable screening test and most women are diagnosed in the advanced stage 3 of the disease
The absence of a reliable screening test is attributed to the fact that the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle, particularly in the early stages. Ovarian cancer is not detected during routine pelvic exams in most cases unless the doctor notes that the ovary is enlarged.
An early diagnosis is the best way to ensure the disease can be successfully treated. It’s important to be aware that early symptoms of ovarian cancer are noticeable, if you are alert to them and aware of what to look out for.
Risk factors of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer affects over 300 women in Ireland each year. However, stats show that there is widespread lack of awareness of what the signs and symptoms of the disease are.
Early symptoms of the disease are often not very acute, and diagnosis is typically late, which results in a low rate of only 46% of women diagnosed with the disease living for over five years. Shocking stats like these have lead to ovarian cancer being described as a ‘silent killer’.
Although ovarian cancer can strike any woman, known risk factors include:
- Age – ovarian cancer can strike at any age but it’s far less common in women under 50. Around 84% of cases of ovarian cancer occur for women over 50. Over 50% of all cases are women over 65
- Started periods early
- Started menopause relatively late
- Women who haven’t carried children
- Genes – women with the BRCA ½ gene mutation can be at significantly higher risk
- Family history – if two or more blood relatives have had the disease under 50
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Cancer prevention officer at Ovarian Cancer Action, Jo Stanford, says that signs are often mistaken for other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ovarian cysts and polycystic ovaries. Often, symptoms are down to something more common like IBS but it’s always important to get yourself checked if you notice any potential symptoms.
Ovarian cancer has four main symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.
- Persistent stomach pain
- Persistent bloating
- Difficulty eating – including more quickly feeling full
- Urinating more frequently
You should make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.
You can help your doctor make a quicker and more accurate diagnosis if you keep a record of symptoms. Ovarian Cancer Action provide a paper symptoms diary to download, to keep track of your symptoms.
Raising awareness of ovarian cancer in Cork
The Emer Casey Foundation, located here in County Cork, is one of the leading ovarian cancer focused charities in Ireland. The Foundation was set up in 2006 following the death of Emer Casey from Youghal, at a young age, due to ovarian cancer.
The Foundation organise events in Cork throughout the year to raise funds to fight the disease and to raise awareness. Upcoming Emer Casey Foundation events include the Melbourne Fun Run on May 27th and the Emer Casey 5K Memorial Run on April 12th.
Ovarian cancer support groups
There are many ovarian cancer support groups and information sites available on the internet. We’ve listed some trusted sites below that will give appropriate information and support.