Norfolk woman warned of ovarian cancer

Dan GrimmerWomen in Norfolk are being urged to be aware of how to spot symptoms of ovarian cancer, one of the most common diseases in the country.Dan Grimmer

Women in Norfolk are being urged to be aware of how to spot symptoms of ovarian cancer, one of the most common diseases in the country.

Health bosses are warning that symptoms of the disease are difficult to recognise so want women to see a GP as early as possible to discuss potential problems.

Jonathan Williams, NHS Norfolk's assistant director of public health, said: 'It is essential that all women are aware of how to spot ovarian cancer, as it affects about 5,500 women in England every year and is the fifth most common cancer among women, after breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the uterus.

'However, the symptoms can be difficult to recognise, as a bloated feeling in your stomach, difficulty eating, needing to pass urine more frequently, or a pain in your pelvis, lower stomach, or side, are all early symptoms of ovarian cancer. It is important that women speak to their GP's promptly if they have any of these symptoms.'

As part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in March women are being encouraged to take part in 'make time for tea' events to help them talk with other women about what they might perceive to be 'embarrassing' problems.

These have been organised by the gynaecological cancer research charity and are part of The Eve Appeal and asked women to make time to relax with friends over a pot of tea and talk about health problems.

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Julie Hanks, 53, from Gorleston was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, just eight months after her sister Joanne died of the disease at the age of 42.

'The symptoms of ovarian cancer are hard to define,' she said. 'I was visiting my doctor thinking I had irritable bowel cancer because I had a swollen stomach and pains.

'But because of what happened to my sister I wanted to find out straight away so we paid for private tests and I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.'

The disease is hereditary and Mrs Hank was told her father was a carrier. Her son Matthew, 27, was tested for the disease as he had a 50pc of carrying it but he does not have it.

Mrs Hanks had six round of chemotherapy followed by a hysterectomy and then another two rounds of chemotherapy. Because the condition is genetic it can re-occur at any time so she spends her time ensuring others are aware as much as possible of the symptoms.

She works as a 'phone friend' for Ovacome, which is part of the Eve Appeal and a UK-wide network providing information and support for everyone affected by ovarian cancer.

She is also planning a tea event. She said: 'I don't want anyone else going through what I did so I am doing what I can to help others. If people have pains in their stomach or any of the suspected symptoms they should go to their doctor and if they are not happy with the result get a second opinion.

'It is important that as many people are aware of the disease as possible.'

Ovarian cancer was once thought to be symptomless until the cancer was advanced when the outlook is poor, but it is now recognised that women can experience early symptoms that should not be ignored.

Early diagnosis can help save lives - survival rates for ovarian cancer are higher the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.

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