February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and the Ovarian Cancer Support Group members want to spread the message.
Ovarian cancer is often not identified, until it has spread significantly. As a result, there is just a 42 per cent survival rate beyond five years.
Support group spokesperson, Lisa Finucane, says that ovarian cancer is often not talked about daily life, but they hope to change that.
“The four main symptoms are: persistent stomach/pelvic pain, persistent bloating, difficulty eating/feeling full more quickly, and needing to wee more frequently. Alongside these are back pain, changes in bowel habits (going more often or a lot less), abnormal vaginal bleeding, and extreme tiredness for no obvious reason,” she says.
Rachel Brown co-founded the New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation and then the Ovarian Cancer Support Group with her sister, following the death of their mother from ovarian cancer more than 10 years ago.
“We want women to know to see their GPs as soon as possible, and to keep a record of the symptoms to help support a speedier diagnosis.
There are online symptom diaries and phone apps available, which can help provide more clarity around the severity and regularity of symptoms.
“This could be the difference between a cancer that is contained and can be treated, to one that has spread and frankly has a very serious consequence.
“It’s time that we talked about symptoms of this and other cancers, the same way we are comfortable talking about breast lumps and dodgy moles.
Awareness leads to better vigilance — and will save lives.”