27 March 2012
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the UK, which aims to raise awareness of a disease which is common in women.
As well as being the fifth most common cancer in British women, it is also the second most common gynaecological cancer after uterine cancer. Overall, the UK records 18 cases of females being diagnosed with ovarian cancer per day.
However, health organisation Ovarian Cancer Action acknowledged that early diagnosis of the condition is vital, as 90 per cent of women found to be suffering from ovarian cancer in the early stages will survive for more than five years afterwards.
The problem is that many women in the UK do not get diagnosed with the life-threatening disease until it has spread. This makes treatment much more difficult and cuts survival rates substantially.
Robert Marsh, chief executive of The Eve Appeal, acknowledged: "Awareness of ovarian cancer and its symptoms is worrying low and we need all women to make sure they are aware of what to look out for and to share this information with friends and family."
Some of the problems surrounding the detection of ovarian cancer include the fact that 90 per cent of cases have no links to family history, while a smear test cannot find effects of the condition either.
However, symptoms which should alert people include having constant stomach pain and if they persistently feel bloated or have an increased stomach size.
Furthermore, women who feel full quickly or find it difficult to eat should also use this as a warning, while needing the toilet a lot is another symptom.
If a person is experiencing one or more of these points on a frequent basis, they are advised to visit a doctor at the earliest possible occasion to get themselves checked over.
Mr Marsh noted: "It is unlikely that the symptoms are caused by a serious problem but it is still important to get checked out."
The expert also believes that one of the main barriers preventing more women from being treated for ovarian cancer is the fact that "matters below the waist seem to be a taboo subject" for many.
However, he pointed out that people who break down the walls around the embarrassment surrounding this issue could better their health by doing so.
To illustrate this statement, Mr Marsh stated that breast cancer was a similar taboo subject for women as little as 20 years ago.
"We happily talk about breast cancer these days and hope that women will comfortably discuss gynaecological cancers too in the foreseeable future," he added.
One woman who was lucky to get treated for ovarian cancer before it developed into anything more serious was Newcastle University student Laura Batey.
The 21-year-old was found to have a rare but treatable form of the condition two years ago, with the treatment resulting in her losing her left ovary and fallopian tube and some lymph nodes.
However, Ms Batey told the Daily Mail: "I feel lucky that because the cancer was caught so early there was no need for chemotherapy and a hysterectomy wasn't necessary, so children are still very much an option."
For those who have not suffered from ovarian cancer yet, Mr Marsh was keen to advise that motherhood could reduce the risk of contracting the condition.
The expert explained: "There is some evidence to indicate that a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer can be reduced by pregnancy, breastfeeding, and extended use of the contraceptive pill, as these are factors which interrupt ovulation."
Another tip by Mr Marsh in regards to thwarting the disease was for women to always try to follow a strict diet, as people who had a body mass index of 30 or higher were found to be under more of a threat of being diagnosed than those with healthier bodies.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.