Women of Wales demand urgent action is taken on ovarian cancer
750 women in Wales have come together to demand that the Welsh government take immediate action to raise awareness of ovarian cancer by funding a national campaign focusing on the symptoms of the disease.
Following latest research from charity Target Ovarian Cancer, Pathfinder Wales: Faster, further, and fairer, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in Wales (NFWI-Wales) was outraged by its findings which revealed how women with ovarian cancer are being failed in Wales.
A combined lack of awareness and unacceptable delays in diagnosis led to NFWI-Wales partnering with Target Ovarian Cancer to create a petition which demands the government takes action now.
Earlier today members of the WI, campaigners from Target Ovarian Cancer and women affected by ovarian cancer handed in the 750 signatures at the Senedd, as they refused to be ignored.
Jill Rundle, Chair of NFWI-Wales, said: “In 2021, WI members passed a resolution calling for more action to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer in order to save lives. Greater awareness of the symptoms is crucial to early diagnosis. Put simply, too many women are dying because their ovarian cancer is not found early enough. WI members are clear that this must change.”
Over 300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Wales each year and survival rates are among the worst in Europe – yet too few women know the symptoms and what to look out for.
Target Ovarian Cancer’s research found that concerningly just around a quarter of women know that bloating is a key symptom of ovarian cancer.
What are the symptoms?
- Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
- Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
- Pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s your tummy and below)
- Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)
Occasionally there can be other symptoms:
- Changes in bowel habit (eg diarrhoea or constipation)
- Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Unexplained weight loss
Any bleeding after the menopause should always be investigated by a GP.
Symptoms will be:
- Frequent – they usually happen more than 12 times a month
- Persistent – they don’t go away
- New – they are not normal for you
Chief Executive at Target Ovarian Cancer, Annwen Jones OBE, said: “As there is currently no ovarian cancer screening programme, symptoms awareness is all the more crucial. By knowing the symptoms, a woman is more likely to contact their GP with their concerns earlier and have ovarian cancer ruled out or confirmed.
“A government funded awareness campaign listing the symptoms of persistent bloating, abdominal pain, needing to wee more often and feeling full quickly, would address our concerns, increase the number of women diagnosed at an early stage and ultimately the chances of survival.”
49 year old Amanda Davies, from Pembrokeshire, is urging the government to prioritise this area of women’s health after her own diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
She said: “By the time my symptoms appeared all together, I had stage 3 ovarian cancer and was given six months to live. This was devastating. I had been going to the GP, but it was never investigated as I was perceived as ‘too young’ for the disease.
“I had bloating and abdominal pain, two of the key symptoms, but there were some symptoms I didn’t know. I never put the symptoms altogether, despite knowing my Nan died of ovarian cancer. To think, it was ovarian cancer making me unwell. I wonder if there had been an awareness campaign, listing the symptoms and sharing the experiences of women of all different ages whether I would’ve put it all together.
“A government campaign to raise symptom awareness and attract funding for research and charities supporting ovarian cancer patients is and should be a priority. The symptoms are often mistaken for other illnesses, stress, or misdiagnosed in younger women. Women may still feel embarrassed to talk about ‘problems down below’ and will often put their symptoms down to getting older – meaning their cancer is already advanced and in some cases untreatable – creating needless deaths.”
Target Ovarian Cancer is determined that every nation in the UK funds an awareness campaign so that everyone knows the symptoms. If you would like to get involved in campaigning with the charity, visit targetovariancancer.org.uk.
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