Lives lost amid ovarian cancer 'delays'

Published Wednesday, 23 January 2013
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Women's lives are being cut short in Northern Ireland, due to delays in diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Lives lost amid ovarian cancer 'delays'
Una Crudden is speaking out about her battle with ovarian cancer. (© UTV)

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.

Target Ovarian Cancer telephone: 020 7923 5470
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.
© UTV News
Comments Comments
Laurence in Belfast wrote (732 days ago):
I wish people would stop calling ovarian cancer 'the silent killer'. It's a curable cancer when diagnosed in time (meaning symptoms being recognized by GPs). I was diagnosed with OC in 2009, aged 38. I had all the typical symptoms (and more) and was back and forth to my GP for 4 months. It's only when I, myself, felt a lump on my abdomen that they realized something was wrong and sent me to A&E. Even then the nightmare was not finished and it took 3 weeks before I got to see a specialist. From then on, everything went quite fast but I was diagnosed at stage 2 and had a total hysterectomy, followed by chemotherapy. Had the GPs done their job properly, I could have been diagnosed earlier. What is depressing is hearing stories like mine over and over.
Caroline in Warrenpoint wrote (735 days ago):
Una thank you so much for speaking out on ovarian cancer. The better educated GPs are, the more lives can be saved. The more publicity and awareness there is out there, the greater the chances are of research funds to identify better treatment solutions for this particularly challenging and insidious disease. You are making a real difference and people are listening. Thanks, too, to Margaret K for giving us hope. Caroline
una crudden in west belfast wrote (737 days ago):
Hi! everyone thanks for the comments.All these go to show , that most women are ignorant of the symptons and even when we do go to doctors or a and e dept. medical professionals are missing this deadly disease.Please spread the word as that is the only way we can save lives and if you have symptons its better to be safe than sorry insist on tests as it may save your life.Its too late for me but not for will supply you ith any leaflets u need to spread the word and its free.There is also a computer module for your gps. to do via the internet funded by target ovarian cancer.Go to your practise managers and ask them to do this module to improve the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.There is no excuse as the module is free and can only but benefit their fmale patients.women speak about it keep and higher the profile as it ia the biggest gynae kiler of them all.
TMan in Newtownabbey wrote (737 days ago):
My wife has been to GP and A&E about this complaining of symptoms. Both GP and hospital have delayed investigations. Total Joke! We are bgoint o London next week.
Ann Loughran in ARMAGH wrote (737 days ago):
I too can relate to Una's condition. In Oct 2008 I felt a slight swelling on my left side - my GP said it was IBS and prescribed tablets and a list of food to avoid which attributed to IBS. I also had a lower pelvic ultra sound at my local community hospital. All was clear so I continued with the medication until the end of Dec 2008. I contacted my GP in Jan 2009 as the swelling had not gone away. I had in fact a large cyst on my left ovary. I had a full pelvic hysterectomy but when the biopsy came the cyst had cancerous cells as did my fallopian tubes. I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer (stage 2). I had 6 sessions of chemothrapy over the next 6 months and now attend regular check up's at Belfast City Hosp. I wish Una all the best and congratulate her on going 'public' with her condition.
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