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Warning North West women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer too late to save their lives

Research charity, Ovarian Cancer Action, has found almost a third of women with ovarian cancer in the North West are being diagnosed too late.

Early diagnosis by a GP is integral to fighting ovarian cancer. Currently in the UK, only 46% of women live beyond five years after being diagnosed with the disease, with years survived significantly dropping the later diagnoses are made. Women have a 90% chance of survival when diagnosed with ovarian cancer at stage one, which drops dramatically to 4% when diagnosed at stage four.

Ovarian Cancer Action has analysed data published by Public Health England and found 29% of women with ovarian cancer in the North West were diagnosed by emergency presentation1 - when cancer has had time to advance and symptoms have become severe. 

Survival rates for women diagnosed through emergency presentation are significantly lower than all other routes to diagnosis3. To ensure women with ovarian cancer have the best chances of survival, Ovarian Cancer Action is educating GPs to recognise symptoms, are appealing to the women of the North West to visit their GP if they recognise the following symptoms.

Symptoms for ovarian cancer include:

  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full more quickly
  • Needing to wee more frequently

If your symptoms are persistent, severe, frequent or out of the ordinary - visit your GP.

Last year, Lancashire teacher Paula Cann was experiencing the classic symptoms of ovarian cancer but was diagnosed with a cyst that was only removed due to its size. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer and immediately underwent treatment.

"I'd started needing to wee more often and more urgently. Most evenings I walk the same route around my local woods, but I could no longer make it around without desperately needing the loo.

 "And then I felt a lump in my stomach when I was lying down. I wasn't too worried as I felt really well, apart from some tiredness, which I put down to my hectic job as a primary school teacher.

"Even though I wasn't in pain, I thought it best to visit my GP, who wasn't overly concerned and thought it was an ovarian cyst, which would be best to remove as it was quite large. 

"Thank goodness my cyst was too big to ignore, as two weeks later I was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer. I was told that if I'd left it another month it may have been a different story. 

"Ovarian cancer has symptoms; tiredness, needing to wee more frequently, persistent bloating and stomach pain are all signs. It's so important to catch it early, to have the best chances of survival. If like me, you are experiencing these frequently, please, visit your GP."

Katherine Taylor, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, says:

"Ovarian cancer kills more women than the other four gynaecological cancers combined. A woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer through emergency presentation is a woman who could have been diagnosed earlier and given a better chance of survival - so education and awareness are key. We work closely with health professionals, including GPs, to identify the signs of ovarian cancer, which are often misunderstood. As women, we also need to listen to our bodies; get to know what is normal and be persistent with doctors if we think something is wrong." 

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