We need to talk about ovarian cancer ...
An ovarian cancer support charity is using a grant to reach women in Wigan with a multilingual awareness campaign of the symptoms.
Ovacome — which also provides support in seven languages — says that the pandemic has been causing fewer people to come forward with symptoms of the disease which can be easily confused with irritable bowel syndrome or the menopause.
The most common signs of ovarian cancer — persistent bloating, eating difficulty, abdominal pain and changes to toilet habits — can be easy to brush aside, especially during a pandemic when people do not want to be a trouble to their GP or risk getting coronavirus while seeking help.
Ovacome is using the funding from the Charities Aid Foundation to connect with community organisations in the region to reach people with its awareness material and support lines in Polish, Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali and Arabic, as well as English.
Ovacome’s regional support hub co-ordinator Laura Nott, said: “We want to empower people from all communities with the knowledge of the signs and symptoms and what to do if you are concerned.
“In normal times, we know that people often dismiss signs that they could have ovarian cancer and during Covid we know this is happening even more.”
This makes Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this March especially important says Laura.
“We need to get the message out there that if you have bloating that is unusual for you, are eating less, have abdominal pain or changes in toilet habits, it needs checking.
“We also want women who have already been diagnosed with the disease to know that Ovacome is here to help with our freephone support lines.
“Many women with ovarian cancer will have been told to be extra careful during the pandemic and it will have been an extremely isolating time for them, making them feel more anxious and disconnected.
“We are here to give these women the information and support that they need to maintain the healthiest and most fulfilling life in lockdown possible and to be part of a community that will help them feel supported and make informed decisions,” she says.
Marta Wojcik, who moved to the UK from Poland 16 years ago, and is now a trustee at Ovacome, says that the charity has been a lifeline in introducing her to other young women who have been diagnosed with the disease.
Marta, 36, said: “I’ve made friends through Ovacome. We have a WhatsApp group and talk to one another.
“It is a caring community which gives you the means to talk to other people than your friends and family if you have any worries.”
She believes that had she known earlier that her symptoms of the disease - bloating and abdominal pain - might have been ovarian cancer, she may have avoided such invasive treatment.
Doctors had told her that she was suffering from stress, irritable bowel syndrome or a wheat or lactose intolerance, before being diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in June 2016.
Her disease was only picked up during a fertility scan.
Marta added: “We need to shout about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and share the awareness material from Ovacome among our communities online and in churches, shops and other public spaces when we are allowed.”
If you are affected by ovarian cancer or concerned about the disease contact Ovacome at ovacome.org.uk or call 0800 008 7054.
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