Belfast Telegraph

Una Crudden wins five-year fight for cancer awareness campaign

By Victoria O'Hara

An inspirational campaigner who is terminally ill with ovarian cancer has said she hopes a new awareness campaign will mean fewer women reaching her stage of the disease.

Una Crudden, who has fought tirelessly to highlight how women can spot the signs of ovarian cancer, said she was delighted the campaign had finally been launched.

Hairdressing salons, bingo halls, pharmacies and GP practices across Northern Ireland will receive thousands of leaflets and posters highlighting the symptoms of the disease that claims more than 100 lives a year in Northern Ireland.

More than 150 women are diagnosed with the condition each year.

But 37% of women here could not recognise signs of the disease, the worst level of awareness in the EU.

"This has been something I have been fighting for, ever since I was diagnosed five years ago," she said. The grandmother from west Belfast – who was named the Belfast Telegraph's Woman of the Year in February, added: "I am in palliative care now, so hopefully this campaign will make a difference before others needlessly reach this stage.

"I hope this leads to a reduction in misdiagnosis of the disease and that women will become armed with the knowledge to spot the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer."

As part of the campaign Una recorded a message on YouTube calling on women to read the leaflets and make themselves aware of the symptoms.

The campaign was developed by the Public Health Agency, in partnership with the charities Target Ovarian Cancer and Angels of Hope.

It aims to raise awareness particularly among women over the age of 50, and encourage them to speak to their GP.

It is hoped it could improve survival rates and the quality of life for those diagnosed.

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, said too often ovarian cancer was diagnosed late, when treatment options may be limited.

"We would like women to be aware of the early symptoms and to see their doctor if these occur," she said.

"The earlier a woman with ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the more likely she is to have a better outcome."

Dr Johnny Browne, a Macmillan GP Adviser, said it was vital for women to visit their doctor if they had symptoms.

"Even though most women, at some point, experience bloating for a variety of reasons, persistent bloating – which is defined as bloating that doesn't come and go and is present for at least three weeks – is a sign that you need to go to see your GP and get ovarian cancer ruled out.

"Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to those seen in more common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

"Therefore a patient's GP may wish to undertake a simple blood test which helps provide more information on the possible underlying condition."

Maureen Clarke MBE from Angels of Hope said many women in Northern Ireland were simply unaware of what to look out for.

"We hope these leaflets and posters will help to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms and therefore improve survival and quality of life for the women diagnosed every year with ovarian cancer," she said.

A video featuring Una Crudden delivering her message is available at: http://youtu.be/7DAlqhl57YU

factfile: what to watch for

If you are over 50, the early symptoms of ovarian cancer to look out for include:

{HTML_BULLET} Persistent bloating for three weeks or more;

{HTML_BULLET} Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain;

{HTML_BULLET} Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly;

{HTML_BULLET} Needing to urinate urgently or more frequently than normal;

{HTML_BULLET} Changes in bowel habit;

{HTML_BULLET} Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired);

{HTML_BULLET} Unexplained weight loss.

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