Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and as part of our See The Signs campaign, we’re raising awareness of the subtle signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

These symptoms are not always easy to recognise, due to them being similar to other conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or menopause.

We’re calling on members to raise awareness by sharing our social media graphics so that all women know the signs to look out for. The earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome.

We would like to thank the members who have shared their stories of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and what the early symptoms were like for them.

Find out how you can get involved in Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month here.

Barbara’s experience

Netherton & District WI, West Yorkshire Federation

“Strangely enough at the time the proposals were published to back a campaign regarding the above subject a mass in one of my ovaries was discovered. It was a tumour the size of a melon. I underwent major surgery to remove the tumour and had a full hysterectomy and removal of the appendix at the same time.

“Further tests on the removed tumour revealed stage 1A clear cell cancer. 6 cycles of extensive chemotherapy followed as a precaution to ensure everything was clear. A recent CT scan revealed that all was well. What a relief! Now my hair is beginning to grow back and my energy is increasing.

“I was very grateful to my GP who arranged for an ultrasound scan as soon as possible after an appointment. Following the results of this, I was placed on a Cancer fast track. My treatment by the NHS service and staff has been brilliant.

“Early detection is the key. In hindsight, I had symptoms but they were thought to be due to other issues. These were as follows:-

  • Slacks and jeans getting tighter or unable to fasten at the waist due to stomach getting bigger - I put this down to gaining weight.
  • Increase in going to the toilet to wee, especially during the night. * Back pain - put down to arthritis in my back.
  • Feeling tired and weary in the afternoon and dozing off - not like me at all.
  • Feeling of pressure low in my stomach. As if something was pressing on my bladder. (Something was. It was the tumour).

“The latter is the point at which I paid a visit to my local Doctors surgery and saw a GP.

“All this started in November 2020. Covid lockdowns and restrictions made things even more difficult in lots of ways. The worst was not being able to receive normal support from family and friends. Phone contact is not a substitute for actually being with them. Luckily my partner, who lives elsewhere, gave up his independent life to look after me and stay in a bubble. Something for which I will be forever grateful!

“I have mentioned all this as I feel very lucky to have survived. My Aunt died as a result of ovarian cancer which was not diagnosed until it was too late. She was misdiagnosed as having a prolapsed womb.

“Thank you to the WI for campaigning on ovarian cancer. Early detection is the key to the survival of this killer!”

Fran’s experience

Sandholme and Hive WI & East Yorkshire Roses WI, East Yorkshire Federation

Fran has taken part in the Craftivism competition as part of the See the Signs campaign, the results of which will be announced soon. She said:

“I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Low-Grade Ovarian Cancer in 2017 at the age of 40. This is one of the rarer forms of the disease and tends to affect younger women. I decided to take part [in the competition] because I don't want anyone to go through the surgery and treatment that I have been through. By raising awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer I hope that I can encourage women to see their GP if they have symptoms and this results in them receiving early treatment and having better outcomes. I especially want to raise awareness of this disease in younger women.

“Prior to the diagnosis, I was very well. With hindsight, I had odd niggle here and there which I put down to stress such as feeling bloated and tired. Then one day, in August 2017, I felt really unwell at work with low left side tummy pain, and I passed a lot of blood when I went to the toilet.

“I immediately saw my GP who referred me to see a bowel specialist. After investigations I was told I had a tumour in my bowel, this was followed by a CA125 blood test and CT scan, and I was diagnosed with a large ovarian tumour that had grown into my bowel. I was referred to a special centre in London for urgent surgery. And 2 weeks later I was in surgery for over 6 hours having a total hysterectomy and bowel repair, followed by chemotherapy.

“Disappointingly my cancer came back during lockdown, and I had to have another operation in March 2021, and I am now on a maintenance drug to try to prevent it coming back again.

“I am so pleased that the WI is raising awareness of this disease and I hope this campaign helps women connect symptoms that may seem quite unrelated and gives them the knowledge to be able to ask their GP about the possibility of ovarian cancer and to ask for further tests if they think something is not right. I didn't have any gynaecological symptoms, so I was very shocked to be told I had ovarian cancer, but this is not unusual. It is important to remember that having a regular smear test will not pick up ovarian cancer and I have never missed a smear test.

“I think my experience over the last few years has made me a much more positive person. I’m lucky to be living in beautiful Yorkshire with my husband and dogs and to be near my family. I love being part of the WI and I’m looking forward to being able to help with this campaign.”