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Taking the fight to ovarian cancer

Tuesday 8 May is World Ovarian Cancer Day and Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer and Vice Chair of World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, reflects on the progress being made to tackle the disease and sets out the challenges going forwards.

Today I am thinking of the 230,000 women diagnosed worldwide every year and their loved ones as they learn to live with this devastating disease. It is also a time to reflect on the progress that has been made in recent years and, most importantly, on the need to step up our collaborative efforts and seize the unprecedented opportunities that we now have to make progress. As part of the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Target Ovarian Cancer will spend the day reminding women that their voice has power, the power to raise awareness and make sure everyone knows the symptoms of ovarian cancer so that more women can be diagnosed earlier.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s your tummy and below)
  • Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)

These symptoms can be vague and are similar to a whole range of other conditions, and that can make it very hard to diagnose. Raising awareness means not only do women know not to ignore what can seem like minor ailments, but also that GPs are more likely to recognise them so women have the best chance of an early diagnosis. In the UK, 11 women die every day from ovarian cancer. Join us to raise awareness today and together we can save lives.

Later on this year the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition will release The Every Woman Study, the first ever global report into the reality of life with ovarian cancer highlighting gaps, challenges and opportunities to prevent it, diagnose it earlier and treat it more effectively. I am honoured to serve as Co-Chair on this unique and pivotal study. A preliminary report released last week showed us that ovarian cancer diagnoses will increase by 55 per cent in the next two decades. Urgent action is needed now – global five year survival rates range from 30 per cent and 50 percent of women. This is why World Ovarian Cancer Day is so important, if we are to come together to raise awareness and get the push we need to address these challenges head on.

Clinicians in the UK can also contribute their ideas on how to improve the system, as part of the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition Every Woman Study. Not only does it involve the experiences of women with ovarian cancer, but also those caring for them. The Clinician Survey can be accessed here:  www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/EWSClinicianSurvey2018/ until 8 June 2018.

Here in the UK, Target Ovarian Cancer continues its work to transform early diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer. Today on World Ovarian Cancer Day, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ovarian Cancer chaired by Sharon Hodgson MP publishes the findings of its first-ever inquiry, looking at what more can be done to improve early diagnosis? The inquiry heard from contributing experts including, Professor Anne Mackie, Director of Screening at Public Health England, Professor Chris Harrison, National Clinical Director for Cancer and Lucy Elliss-Brookes, Head of Cancer Analysis at the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service.

The inquiry highlights that progress has been made in recent years – from improved access to diagnostic tests for GPs to new, clearer guidelines for diagnosis. But there is still more to do. Within the report, MPs make calls for improvements to the system and for more resources for prevention, early diagnosis and better treatment of ovarian cancer in the future.

Join us this World Ovarian Cancer Day, we’ll be raising our voices on Twitter (@TargetOvarian) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TargetOvarianCancer) to raise awareness so that every woman across the UK and around the world has the best chance of survival from this devastating disease.

Annwen Jones

Annwen Jones has been Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer since its formation in 2008. She is the Vice-Chair of the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition and co-founder of World Ovarian Cancer Day.

Annwen was appointed by NHS England to the National Cancer Drugs Panel in 2014 and currently sits on several clinical trial steering committees, including the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS).

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