March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the UK. Target Ovarian Cancer, the UK’s leading ovarian cancer charity, is working together with women with ovarian cancer, their family and friends, parliament, health care, the media and others to lead campaigns for early diagnosis, increasing treatment options through funding life-saving research, and building community among women with ovarian cancer.
“When a woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, her chance of surviving ovarian cancer for five years or more doubles from just 46 percent to more than 90 percent. However, nearly half of GPs mistakenly believe symptoms only present in the later stages of the disease, and less than a third of women in the UK are confident they know the symptoms,” says Target Ovarian Cancer on its website.
The organization encourages people to “Start Making Noise” this March: to raise awareness, raise money and save lives. They share lots of fundraising ideas from having a competitive bake-off to a musical performance to participating in Challenge 50, raising £50 as one in 50 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Friday, March 10 is designated The Big Colour Clash and it is a day of fun and camaraderie, bringing more awareness to the cause as people post pictures of their colorful outfits worn to work or school.
They’ve created infographics with the symptoms of ovarian cancer for people to easily share on social media. They offer a symptom diary to encourage women to be aware of symptoms and help them judge if they might need to visit their doctor. If the following symptoms have begun in the last year and occur frequently (more than 12 times a month) and they don’t go away quickly, visit your doctor, the site says.
- persistent pelvic or abdominal pain,
- increased abdominal size/persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes,
- difficulty eating or feeling full quickly,
- needing to urinate more urgently or more often than usual.
Other symptoms include changes in bowel habits, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite. Any post-menopausal bleeding should always be investigated by a general practitioner (GP), Target Ovarian Cancer says.
“I took this thought home with me. Please listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Never ever be afraid to start the ball rolling by going to your GP. It could be too late to conquer it. Don’t wait. Too many loved ones too many friends need you. You are special,” Moira from Warrington was quoted as saying on Target Ovarian Cancer’s website.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., ovarian cancer has become the center of worldwide attention as ovarian cancer sufferer Nora Daniels is the fourth woman in the past two years to have her lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson brought before a jury. In the third week of the trial, jurors are hearing allegations that Johnson and Johnson’s talc-containing products cause ovarian cancer when used for feminine hygiene.
The allegations maintain that the company, aware for decades of the research linking talc to the cancer, chose not to warn consumers or replace the product with a safe cornstarch alternative but instead used corporate power to influence regulating agencies and strategically increased marketing of these products to minorities. The three trials that took place last year ended in huge verdicts in favor of the women who had suffered from ovarian cancer, and in the first one the $72 million in damages went to the family of the plaintiff who died just before her case went to trial.
The shock of Johnson and Johnson being ordered to pay damages of nearly $200 million and the discovery that a seemingly safe product like Johnson’s Baby Powder might increase women’s risk of developing this deadly disease has brought international media coverage to ovarian cancer. Many women are reading statistics for the first time, such as the fact that ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of death among women, making it one of the deadliest forms of cancer.
According to the attorneys for the plaintiffs in these cases, medical experts estimate that more than 14,000 women die from talc-related ovarian cancer each year, and two scientific studies have found that nearly 10 percent of the new ovarian cancer cases and deaths reported annually are caused by the genital use of talcum powder.
As women consider whether they want to continue using talc and if it is worth the risk, many are becoming aware of other risk factors and warning symptoms connected with ovarian cancer as well. As the gained knowledge spreads, lives can be saved.