Women urged to be aware of 'silent killer'

Over 400 diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually
  • Deborah Condon

Women are being urged to get familiar with, and never ignore, the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common female cancer in Ireland, with over 400 women newly diagnosed every year. More than 270 die from the disease annually.

It is commonly referred to as the 'silent killer' because the symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses.

"Symptoms can be similar to other conditions, which can lead to late stage diagnosis. While there have been many advances in the diagnosis and treatment of many other cancers, ovarian cancer has had little improvement in its prognosis over the last 20 years," commented Dr Sharon O'Toole, an ovarian cancer researcher at Trinity College Dublin.

A new campaign, BEAT Ovarian Cancer, aims to raise awareness of the symptoms. It urges women to visit their doctor if they have any of the following symptoms for more than three weeks:
-Bloating that is persistent and does not come and go
-Eating less and feeling full more quickly
-Abdominal and pelvic pain that you feel most days
-Toilet changes in urination or bowel habits.

"The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be confused with other illnesses. However, the key difference is that these symptoms are persistent and do not come and go.

"The BEAT campaign is encouraging women to be aware of changes in their stomach, pelvis and abdomen and to speak to a GP where they are concerned. Women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer should be particularly vigilant and mention this to their GP," explained Dr Dearbhaile Collins, a consultant medical oncologist at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

The campaign emphasised that as there is no simple diagnostic test for ovarian cancer, individual vigilance is even more important.

The campaign has been launched ahead of World Ovarian Cancer Day (May 8). It includes a video in which women affected by the disease tell their stories. The video can be viewed here.

To mark World Ovarian Cancer Day, a number of buildings in Ireland have agreed to light up teal in support, including the National Concert Hall and Mansion House in Dublin, and City Hall in Cork.

Free public talks on the disease will also take place on May 8. Details are as follows:

-Dublin: St James's Hospital, CRF Seminar Room, 9.30am-11.30am. For further
information, email laura@supportstjames.ie
-Cork: Western Gateway Building, UCC. Refreshments at 6.30pm-7pm followed by the talk from 7pm-8pm. For further information, email orla@breakcancer.ie
-Galway: East Galway Cancer Support Centre (in conjunction with the Marie Keating Foundation), Ballinasloe, 6.30pm-9pm. For further information, email jacq.daly@egmcancersupport.com.


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