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Three out of four Northern Ireland women unaware of ovarian cancer signs

By Brett Campbell

Three-quarters of Northern Ireland women can't identify the symptoms of ovarian cancer, a charity has warned.

Awareness is alarmingly low, leaving females without knowledge that could save lives, according to research by Target Ovarian Cancer.      

Every year on average 181 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer here, and 119 die from the disease.

Yet too many are still unaware of the signs, according to the results of a survey for the charity's Pathfinder Northern Ireland study.

Just 25% of women surveyed could name bloating as a major symptom.

Awareness of other main symptoms - tummy pain, difficulty eating or feeling full and needing to wee more often or urgently - is similarly low.

Over a third of women (38%) wrongly assume that cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer.

Researchers found that 32% 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.

The risks of ovarian cancer were highlighted by the work of campaigner Una Crudden, who passed away from the disease in December 2014.

Target Ovarian Cancer has called 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.

The charity said that 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."

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