SDLP Councillor Deirdre Mayo has urged women and health professionals to help raise greater awareness of the symptoms associated with Ovarian cancer to help ensure early diagnosis and to save lives.
Speaking during an SDLP motion in Cookstown District Council calling on the Minister for Health to do more to raise awareness among both health professionals and women of the symptoms of ovarian cancer to increase earlier diagnosis of the disease and improve survival rates.
Cllr Mayo said: “March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month which is why we brought this motion to the Council this evening.
Over 7000 women a year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is an unfortunate truth that it is the biggest killer largely because it is not diagnosed early enough.
“The reasons for late diagnosis are that few women know the symptoms; it is often misdiagnosed as IBS, ovarian cyst or urine infection; and women wrongly think a smear test will detect ovarian cancer.
“Women, young and old need to be aware that persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, increased abdominal size or persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes), difficulty eating, and feeling full quickly are all symptoms for ovarian cancer.
“I find it extremely worrying that according to the Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study 2013 one in ten GPs have had diagnostic tests refused in the past year.
“The sooner ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Survival can be 70% for women diagnosed with early stage ovarian cancer. That means that seven out of ten women will survive for five or more years. Which is why we need women to learn to recognize the symptoms and go to see their doctor as soon as possible.
“It is why we need to improve GP knowledge to prevent misdiagnosis and we need to make sure that GPs have access to prompt diagnostic tests.
“The SDLP welcomes confirmation by Minister Poots on Monday (11th March) during a Health Committee Assembly Motion that the Public Health Agency is working on a public awareness campaign to help women and health professionals identify the symptoms, and ensure early diagnosis, of Ovarian Cancer.
“We would further ask as a Council that he explore new ways of helping with earlier diagnosis so that women no longer needlessly lose their lives from this silent killer”.