OVARIAN cancer is known amongst health experts as the most deadly of gynaecological diseases — but many women are still unaware of the symptoms.
Next month (March) marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and clinicians are on a mission to educate women about recognising the symptoms of the disease.
Ovarian cancer chiefs have gone a step further and are campaigning for more women to be aware of the BRCA 1 and 2 genes — which increases a woman’s risk of getting the disease from one in 54 to one in two.
There is currently no screening tool for ovarian cancer but, if detected in the early stages, up to 90 per cent of patients will survive for more than five years.
However, most women are not diagnosed until it has already spread, resulting in poor survival rates.
Mr Kehinde Abidogun is a consultant obstetrician at the Royal Bolton Hospital and is responsible for managing the treatment of ovarian cancer in the early stages of diagnosis.
Mr Abidogun, who has worked at the Royal Bolton Hospital for seven years, says it is vital that all women are aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
He said: “The most important message about ovarian cancer is that — like all cancers — early detection is key.
“The most obvious symptom is long-lasting abdominal bloating. If someone feels permanently bloated for more than three weeks, they need to see their GP.
“The biggest problem we have with ovarian cancer is when people don’t detect the symptoms, either because they are vague about what they are or they think they aren’t serious.
“The most high risk group are women over the age of 50 but that’s not to say younger women can’t get it too. As long as they are all aware of the symptoms, then we can ensure that people are diagnosed as quickly and effectively as possible.”
There are 7,000 new UK diagnoses each year and a shocking 32 per cent of all ovarian cancer patients in the UK are diagnosed through an emergency route.
Public awareness was given a boost last year when Angelina Jolie announced her BRCA gene status — which increases a woman's risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.
The actress went on to have a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer.
Now, the charity Ovarian Cancer Action are calling for all women to be “BRCA aware” and check their family cancer history.
Advances in genetic testing and knowledge mean that women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer can now find out more about their own risk of developing the disease.
Gilda Witte, chief executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: "Angelina Jolie made her very personal decision, public, and is very brave to talk about her BRCA status and the preventative measures she took. Conversations generate awareness and awareness in turn educates people — prompting them to take action and hopefully make, what could be, some life saving decisions.
"During awareness month and beyond, we want to keep the BRCA conversation alive by encouraging as many women as we can to become more aware about their family health history and, if necessary, take the BRCA Risk Factor test to help eliminate any worry or anxiety."
For more information, go to the Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month website on: ocam.org.uk.