Survivors raise awareness of ovarian cancer
05 Mar 2021
Two survivors have joined forces in Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to help stop the disease from claiming the lives of other women.
York Against Cancer supporters Joan Pritchard and Jane Metcalfe have produced a professionally checked essential guide to the symptoms of ovarian cancer after they were treated for the condition.
Joan and Jane are both from York and they serve on our Education and Awareness committee.
PICTURE: Joan Pritchard (left) and Jane Metcalfe (right)
They had chatted about their shared experience and when they realised that Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month fell in March, they decided to produce the guide for us.
One of the key issues for them was that often ovarian cancer presents only vague symptoms, such as tiredness or bloating, and these can be easy to overlook.
Joan, a retired practice nurse, had a very busy social and sporting life and simply thought she might be overdoing things, while Jane put her weariness down to a hectic career at the University of Leeds, as well as to commuting and to some family concerns that had cropped up at the time.
It was only when a friend pointed out how bloated Joan looked that she went to see a doctor, and Jane’s cancer was discovered accidentally through a routine cervical smear.
Both women had blood tests showing high levels of a protein called CA125 and further investigations confirmed their diagnosis of ovarian cancer. They each underwent urgent treatment, Jane in 2015 and Joan the following year.
Both of them are now well but they appreciate how different things might have been, especially with a condition that is not so well known or easy to spot as something like breast cancer.
“I think that when people feel fit and well, it is hard to for them to imagine that it can happen to them, but it can,” said Jane. “We hope our guide gets as many women as possible to be aware, but if it only gets one or two people to go to their doctor it will be worth it.”
“We also want people to know that it is possible to get through this,” said Joan. “We are proof that you can, but the crucial thing is not to ignore any concerns that you might have.”
Key symptoms of ovarian cancer include feeling full quickly, loss of appetite, persistent rather than intermittent bloating, fatigue, unexplained weight loss and possible changes of bowel and bladder habits.
These symptoms can be caused by a range of conditions but Joan and Jane stress it is important to seek medical advice and to return to your GP if your symptoms do not improve after an initial consultation.
Their full essential guide has been verified by Dr Angela Darby, a York Hospital oncologist who serves on the board of York Against Cancer and can be found here; Ovarian Cancer Guide