Better awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms needed - Paisley

NORTH Antrim MP Ian Paisley jnr is calling on Government to improve awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms amongst women.

Speaking last Wednesday in a Westminster Hall debate on ovarian cancer, he called on the Care Services Minister to act immediately on raising symptoms awareness.

He highlighted the fact that 75% of women are diagnosed with late stage disease, and nearly a third are only diagnosed following an admission to A&E. He also highlighted the very poor rates of awareness amongst women. Speaking in the debate, which had been organized by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer (APPG), he asked the Minister why there had been no Department of Health led activity in this area and flagged up a lack of a national outcome measure to drive improvements. These currently exist for breast, lung and bowel cancer.

Speaking to the chamber Mr Paisley told ministers: “10 to 15 members in my constituency of North Antrim will die this year due to ovarian cancer. For me and for many others in the house, this is simply not good enough.”

“Crucial to bringing the death rate down, is ensuring that awareness levels are raised to those of breast cancer. Currently ovarian cancer sufferers are five times more likely to die within the first month compared to those of breast cancer,” said Mr Paisley.

The Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study1 showed only four per cent of women felt very confident about naming a symptom of the disease. It also revealed a third had to wait six months or more for a correct diagnosis.

APPG chair Sharon Hodgson MP said: “Currently, nearly a third of women are diagnosed after going to A&E, and a third of women wait six months or more before getting a correct diagnosis. A national awareness campaign encouraging more women to come forward and get tested would have a direct impact on early diagnosis, hugely increasing survival rates for women with the disease. “Securing this debate was therefore a key objective of the APPG, as it gave us the chance to put our concerns directly to the Minister, and ensure that the Government is aware of the full facts of the situation, because too many women are dying needlessly at the moment.”

Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, praised the MPs’ determination to make a difference: “Women in the UK are not being diagnosed quickly enough because not enough women and GPs know what symptoms to look for. As a consequence women go undiagnosed until their cancer is advanced which means it’s much harder to treat successfully.

“Target Ovarian Cancer works alongside MPs to ensure that the Government is aware of the full facts about the tragedy of this disease which is that late diagnosis claims too many women’s lives. The Department of Health’s own figures show that 500 women’s lives could be saved each year if only the UK matched European survival rates. Today’s debate helped to drive home some of these key points with the minister. ”

Care Services Minister Mr Paul Burstow MP, responding at the end of the debate, acknowledged that the Department of Health were now looking at piloting an ovarian cancer campaign, and he agreed to meet with representatives of the All Party Parliamentary Group as they requested.