Pathfinder Northern Ireland
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Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Monday 2 October 2017

Target Ovarian Cancer today launches Pathfinder Northern Ireland, our third 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.

Women’s awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms in Northern Ireland is alarmingly low, leaving women without knowledge that could save lives, according to Pathfinder Northern Ireland.

This lack of awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms leaves women without knowledge that could save lives. Just one in four (25 per cent) of women surveyed for our Pathfinder Northern Ireland study could name bloating as a major symptom of ovarian cancer. This is higher than in the rest of the UK, where it is just 20 per cent – but still leaves women’s lives at risk if they are unable to spot the symptoms.

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 over one third of women (38 per cent) wrongly assume that cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer.

Pathfinder Northern Ireland also found that one in three women (32 per cent) visit their GP three times or more before being referred for ovarian cancer tests, making it more likely they will be diagnosed at a later stage and making treatment more difficult.

Now, three years after the late Una Crudden’s pioneering campaigning and resulting work with the Public Health Agency on ovarian cancer awareness, Target Ovarian Cancer is calling for a national Be Cancer Aware campaign to ensure every woman knows 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: “It has been three years since Una Crudden’s incredible work galvanising organisations across Northern Ireland to raise awareness – and more women in Northern Ireland can now name bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancer. But Pathfinder Northern Ireland 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.”

Julie Scates, 43, from Belfast, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. She said: “I was diagnosed late after being sent home from the GP and my local hospital and being treated for IBS and constipation for six months. For me, it is crucial that more women and GPs know the symptoms of ovarian cancer and so that ovarian cancer is diagnosed sooner. We were promised a nationwide awareness campaign a few years ago, it did not happen.  More lives have been lost, we need the campaign and we need it now.”

Ovarian cancer can be devastating. Every year on average 181 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Northern Ireland, and 119 women die from the disease. Target Ovarian Cancer’s Pathfinder study is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland, and looks at all aspects of living and working with ovarian cancer. These statistics are part of a report launched at an event at the Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 October 2017, hosted by Pam Cameron MLA.

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