Lives lost amid ovarian cancer 'delays'

Lives lost amid ovarian cancer 'delays'

Women's lives are being cut short in Northern Ireland, due to delays in diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Around 178 women are diagnosed with the condition annually across Northern Ireland - 119 die.

Three main areas of concern have been identified around ovarian cancer; namely the length of time it takes for women to make initial visits to their GP, misdiagnosis and availability of treatment.

Research has shown that 37% of women in Northern Ireland are not at all confident about identifying the symptoms - a significantly higher figure than the UK average of 23%.

Of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the last five years, a quarter had delayed visiting their doctor by about three months after first noticing the symptoms. Half took more than a month.

For a third of women, diagnosis was found to have taken place more than six months after they first went to see their doctor.

The statistics have been revealed by the Target Ovarian Cancer charity in their latest Pathfinder Study, which was launched at the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The overall survival rate for the UK is among the worst in Europe.

Misdiagnosis is common - with 30% of women misdiagnosed with having Irritable Bowel Syndrome, 15% with ovarian cysts and 13% with a urinary infection.

There were five of us diagnosed together and I'm the last one left - the other four have died. Every one of us was misdiagnosed.

Una Crudden, ovarian cancer sufferer

Belfast mum Una Crudden has terminal ovarian cancer which was diagnosed in December 2009.

"I had been attending the doctor for three months and he told me it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome," she told UTV.

But three months on, Una was still suffering excruciating pain in her pelvic area.

This time, during an emergency appointment with another doctor, an area of swelling was located and Una was referred two days later to the Lagan Valley Hospital.

She was found to have a 13ins tumour.

"If I'd not gone back, although I'm terminally ill, I wouldn't even be getting this three years' extra time with my family," she said.

Una, who does not drink or smoke, told UTV she had a healthy diet and walked everywhere and described her diagnosis as "very unfair".

The tireless campaigner has recorded a CD Angel of Hope in a bid to raise awareness of the disease. To date, she has raised thousands of pounds for the Northern Ireland Hospice.

But she believes that women need to be more aware of the symptoms - and says they should insist on being tested if they have any of them.

Many women don't realise that ovarian cancer cannot be detected during cervical smear tests.

"Smears test are for cervical cancer - not ovarian cancer," Una said.

She told UTV that the misdiagnosis of her condition was one of the hardest things to deal with.

"There were five of us diagnosed together - aged 36 to 66 - and I am the last one left. The other four have died," she said.

"Every one of us was misdiagnosed with either Irritable Bowel Syndrome or diverticulitis. This is what made me so mad and so sad."

Ovarian Cancer: Key Symptoms

  • Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (needing to go to the bathroom more urgently/often than usual)

Occasionally there can be other symptoms including changes in bowel habits, extreme fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

Symptoms are frequent (occurring more than 12 times a month), persistent, and new (not normal for you and may have started in the last year). Anyone experiencing such symptoms should see their GP as soon as possible.


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