World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8 is a global movement bringing together women living with ovarian cancer, their families and supporters, medical practitioners and researchers to raise awareness of symptoms …
Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day, a disease commonly known as “the silent killer.” The statistics make for a sobering read. Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of female cancer deaths in Ireland. Over 400 women are diagnosed annually, with 290 women losing their lives due to the disease. Ireland ranks among the highest in the world in terms of mortality from ovarian cancer with five-year survival rates at 36 per cent according to the National Cancer Registry Ireland Annual Report, 2020.
Early diagnosis and treatment is vital, says Dr Michael O’Leary, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist and Chair of the National Cancer Control Programme, National Clinical Leads for Surgical Gynaecology Oncology. He advises women to listen to their bodies and consult with their GP if they have persistent bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain; changes in urination, bowel or eating habits including eating less and/or feeling full more quickly.
He explains: “Symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be confused with other conditions such as IBS. This is why it is important to seek help if you notice persistent changes. Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be particularly vigilant. Talk to your GP, describe new symptoms which are not going away and mention any family history. GPs are there to help you and are not too busy to give you advice.”
Remembering the acronym BEAT is helpful as a guide to potential symptoms. Look out of for: Bloating that is persistent and doesn’t come and go; Eating less and feeling full more quickly; Abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days; Toilet changes in urination or bowel habits. If you have any of these for three weeks or more, it’s important to consult a GP.
Knowing a family’s medical history is important too. Angelina Jolie, who is profiled in the May issue of THE GLOSS, underwent a preventive salpingo-oophorectomy as a result of signs of early ovarian cancer. She has said, “I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”
Serena Whelan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 at the age of 34 and was subsequently diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation. Serena, too, has a very positive outlook “Cancer is not the death sentence it used to be, there is always hope”.
To mark World Ovarian Cancer Day, many buildings around Ireland, from Heuston Station, Dublin to the Titanic Centre Belfast, will be participating in the #TEALights campaign by lighting up in teal, the colour associated with the fight against ovarian cancer around the world. Members of the public are asked to support the social media campaign at home by lighting a tea light, to show solidarity with the Irish ovarian cancer community.
Also on Saturday, May 8 at 11am, organisers will host a free webinar on “Ovarian cancer; PARP inhibitors and beyond” given by Dr Dearbhaile Collins. You can register for this free event on www.bit.ly/May8Parp.
For more information visit: www.ovariancancerday.org.
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