Four in 10 cases of ovarian cancer in Yorkshire are diagnosed at a late stage when they are generally more difficult to treat, according to statistics provided by Yorkshire Cancer Research, based in Harrogate.
The charity is encouraging women to be more aware of the symptoms of the disease as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place throughout March.
549 women in Yorkshire were diagnosed with ovary or fallopian tube cancer in 2013, while 317 women in Yorkshire died from the disease in the same year. There are currently around 3,400 women living with or beyond ovarian cancer in Yorkshire.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Increased abdominal size and persistent bloating
- Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly
- Needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual
Sometimes women experience other symptoms such as back pain, fatigue and changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation).
Kathryn Scott, Head of Research and Innovation at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said:
We know that if a cancer is caught early it tends to be easier to treat and the chance of survival is much higher. However, a large proportion of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer at stages 3 and 4, when the tumour may be larger and may have spread to other tissues or organs.
Unfortunately, early signs of ovarian cancer can be confused with those of other conditions, so it’s really important that women are aware of the symptoms and visit their doctor if they experience anything unusual.
The awareness campaign is being backed by mother-of-two Jo Beagley, from Harrogate, who was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer at the age of 39 during summer 2014.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to spot. For me, the bloating was only noticeable three weeks prior to my diagnosis and the abdominal pain for even less time. However, I still think there’s a considerable communication effort required to raise awareness of these symptoms, particularly because of their similarity to the symptoms of other ailments and the lack of a national screening programme.
As clichéd as it sounds, we know our bodies best. If you have the sense something isn’t right, then consult a health professional. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat successfully.
- Jo is a mother of two young boys and she lives in Harrogate. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in July 2014. She’d recently completed the Knaresborough Bed Race and had taken a break from exercising. She’d felt slightly bloated over the previous few weeks but thought it was down to not exercising. She then noticed she was intermittently experiencing a dull abdominal pain. She had put it to the back of her mind and told herself it would probably sort itself out in the next week or so. Over the next few days the pain became a continual discomfort and she eventually called 111 over the weekend and got a referral to the out of hours doctor at Harrogate District Hospital, who examined her and admitted her with an unexplained abdominal mass and pain. She was kept under observation and underwent an ultrasound scan followed by an urgent MRI scan and some blood tests. Following her diagnosis, she underwent a hysterectomy. Jo was initially told that her cancer had been caught at an early stage, but further scans revealed the cancer had spread, so she then had six cycles of chemotherapy, administered every three weeks, and 22 cycles of Avastin, a type of targeted therapy, every three weeks. After her chemo had finished, Jo had a CT scan which came back clear. She continued to be given Avastin until December 2015, and has had regular blood tests to check her level of a tumour marker indicator called CA125, which declined following chemotherapy and have been stable since. In December she had another scan which again came back clear – she was told there are no cancerous cells and that she was disease-free. She will continue to be monitored but is hoping to return to work later this month. She works in a management consultancy.
Yorkshire Cancer Research recently announced that early diagnosis will be one of four major programmes of funding during 2016. National leaders and local experts attended a workshop at the charity’s headquarters in January to discuss practical ideas and solutions that will improve the early diagnosis of cancer in the region.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly when the cancer is at an early stage. This is because they can be the same as symptoms of other less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). However, if your symptoms are frequent, don’t go away and are not normal for you, please see your GP.