Last year I lost a dear friend to ovarian cancer. Her name was Tam (but she had changed her name to Ocean Moore-Sparkle, because that’s the kind of amazing woman she was, her maiden name was Moore and she believed there should be more sparkle in everyone’s life!) She was amazing!
Tam was just 41. She left behind two beautiful children who were just 2 and 4 at the time of her death. Her babies will now grow up only knowing their amazing mum through stories that are told and photographs. It was just 5 short months between Tam’s diagnosis and death. Tragically she’s a good example of how easy it is to miss symptoms which in hindsight, you can see were there.
Five months is a very frightening thing to type. The average survival rate for an ovarian cancer diagnosis is 5 years.
Ovarian Cancer Month
February (as I’ve just found out) is ovarian cancer awareness month, and Wednesday Feb 27th is teal ribbon day, raising awareness and funding for ovarian cancer research. Here are some statistics on ovarian cancer:
It’s one of the deadliest cancers for women because it is often not detected until it’s in advanced stages (Tam’s was stage IV when it was found);
There has been not much change nor progress in the area of ovarian cancer research, detection and treatment for over 30 yrs;
Symptoms are often vague;
Recent research has found that a lot of ovarian cancers start in the Fallopian tubes – something to consider if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancers and/or carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (Tam was found to have the BRCA1 gene; the results which came through after her death) and are considering prophylactic surgery.
- Symptoms (ie. KNOW YOUR BODY) – if any of these are new and you experience them for most days over 2-4 weeks, see you GP:
- Increased abdominal size/bloating
- Feeling full after eating a small amount
- Pelvic/abdominal pain
- Urinary frequency/urgency changes
- Other symptoms that may be present: change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, pain and/or bleeding during or after sex, back pain, indigestion and nausea, excessive fatigue, bleeding after menopause or in-between periods.
Ovarian Cancer Australia have symptom diaries available for women to track any suspicious symptoms.
See your GP
Ovarian cancer is a relatively uncommon disease and most symptoms mentioned above are not related to ovarian cancer. There is NO SCREENING TEST available for ovarian cancer (unlike a pap smear to detect cervical cancer or a mammogram for breast cancer screening), however an examination may involve an internal ultrasound and a CA125 blood test if you have reported symptoms.
Early detection is extremely important in treating ovarian cancer. It’s better to see your GP and feel a bit silly, than wait until things get worse. See a different GP or get a second opinion if you believe you feel like you are not being heard. You are important and you’re the expert of yourself – speak up!
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