Target Ovarian Cancer today launches Pathfinder Wales, our second nation-specific Pathfinder report. Since healthcare is devolved in the UK, it is crucial that we provide a clear picture of the lives of people living and working with ovarian cancer for each of the devolved governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
We discovered that women in Wales have an alarmingly low awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms - just one in five can name bloating as one of them. This leaves women without knowledge that could save lives. Awareness of all four main symptoms – abdominal bloating, tummy pain, difficulty eating or feeling full and needing to wee more often or urgently – is similarly low, while one in four women (27 per cent) wrongly assumes that cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer. Pathfinder Wales also found that over one third (36 per cent) of women visit their GP three times or more before being referred for ovarian cancer tests.
Wales has increased efforts to raise awareness of ovarian cancer in recent years, and implemented new pilot diagnostic centres aiming to reduce the time it takes to diagnose cancers. But awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer among GPs and women is still low. Target Ovarian Cancer is calling on the Welsh Government to launch a national, public-facing ovarian cancer awareness campaign to ensure women know the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the importance of going to their GP. Knowing these cancer symptoms could save lives – being diagnosed at the earliest stage of ovarian cancer doubles a woman’s chances of survival.
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Although we have seen improvements in recent years with pilot diagnostic centres and calls for ovarian cancer awareness campaigns in the Welsh Assembly, Pathfinder Wales shows that more remains to be done. We need to see better awareness of the symptoms, and an improvement in the worrying trend that sees many women visit their GP multiple times before being sent for ovarian cancer tests. Women need the right support, from diagnosis through to treatment of ovarian cancer.”
Sarah Burton, Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff and member of the Pathfinder Advisory Panel, said: “Pathfinder gives us a valuable insight into the lives of everyone living and working with ovarian cancer in Wales. It helps us to see where next to put our energy so that more women in Wales can be diagnosed earlier and live well for longer. A public awareness campaign that clearly highlights the symptoms of the disease would go a long way to supporting efforts towards early diagnosis and saving lives.”
Hazel Lynes from Mold was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. She said: “Target Ovarian Cancer has been calling for an awareness campaign in Wales for a number of years – and we are getting closer. I visit people every week to give talks and raise awareness. It is so important for more women to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer so they are confident to visit their GP if there is a problem, and get an earlier diagnosis. We cannot do this without a national campaign.”