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Allyson backs campaign for Ovarian Cancer

A Lund resident is backing a charity campaign for urgent action to be taken on ovarian cancer following research by a leading charity that found women are still being overlooked as the deadliest gynaecological cancer continues to devastate and claim lives.

In the report by Target Ovarian Cancer, women and children have expressed concern that progress in combatting ovarian cancer and the provision of support is not adequate.

The report concludes that progress is possible if urgent action is taken now and reveals that if diagnosis was faster, further support was available and access to treatment was fairer, there could be potential for more women to survive, live well with ovarian cancer and be supported from diagnosis and throughout treatment.

The report found:

• Just one in five (21 per cent) women know that bloating is one of the key symptoms of ovarian cancer

• Over a quarter of women make three or more visits to their GP before being referred for tests and nearly a third wait over three months from first visiting their GP for the correct diagnosis

• Fourteen per cent of women reported that they were not told their diagnosis in private

• Sixty per cent of those with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer reported it had a negative impact on their mental health, but the research showed that 54 per cent of respondents hadn’t been asked by anyone involved in their treatment about the impact on their mental health

• Only 23 per cent of women surveyed reported that they were asked if they would like to join a clinical trial, despite 60 per cent reporting they would like to

Lund resident Allyson Kent backs the campaign for action to be taken on ovarian cancer.

Allyson, 59, was told she had ovarian cancer in a four-bed cubicle in hospital. The curtains were closed but everyone else on the ward could hear the conversation, although she said the doctor was caring and compassionate and gave up plenty of his time to stay with her once he had given her the news.

A year after retiring in 2018, Allyson was diagnosed with breast cancer. She thought this was devastating enough, but that was nothing compared to what was to come.

After recovering from breast cancer, Allyson started training for a fundraising walk.

It was then she realised something wasn’t right. She noticed stomach pains and spoke to her GP who agreed that was likely to be as a result of the side effects from medication she was taking.

She started to feel bloated and noticed that even though she was walking a lot, she wasn’t losing any weight.

By this time, the UK was in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she avoided visiting her GP and dismissed her symptoms.

By May, she said she looked five months pregnant and upon visiting her GP was told, ‘You can’t be that unlucky to have another cancer’.

Four weeks later, she began chemotherapy for stage three ovarian cancer.

“Walking helped me find something inside me that I didn’t know I had,” said Allyson.

“It’s helped me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some days I would go walking and really struggle, but every walk I finished I felt like I came home stronger.

“Cancer was absolute devastation, but it’s given me the opportunity to look at my life.

“People sometimes forget that you’re living with cancer. Recently I went for a scan and the registrar oncologist used the word ‘advanced’ and I broke down.

“It doesn’t matter how strong or independent you are, when you’re in that clinic and you’re feeling anxious, you suddenly become that vulnerable lady again.

“If I’m feeling frightened, I face my fears at breakfast and not let them ruin the rest of my day.

“Reframing it in my head helps me manage it. The power of words is so amazing, your own inner chatter can take you back to that darkness and so I try to think ‘yes, I’ve been dealt these cards but I’m not going to let it define who I am or ruin my days’.

“Now I focus on the things that bring me joy, walking, sitting with a cup of green tea, reading, doing a little bit in the garden in all weathers, sewing, reconnecting with people.

“I have joy in my life every single day.”

Off the back of the report, Target Ovarian Cancer is calling for a combination of national symptoms awareness campaigns and more training and support for GPs, which will lead to earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer, access for all to treatment, widespread improvements in support, including mental health support, as well as an urgent investment in the Clinical Nurse Specialist workforce.

“While there has been some improvement in recent years, our report clearly shows that we now need action taken to secure progress which is faster, further and fairer,” said Annwen Jones OBE, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer.

“We are hopeful that with the right targeted investment and backing from the government we can achieve this together, prolonging and saving lives.

“Since our last Pathfinder report in 2016, we have worked tirelessly to transform the lives of those living with ovarian cancer, despite the setbacks of the pandemic.

“We have achieved the first government-funded national symptoms awareness campaign and the first national ovarian cancer audit and we have seen the introduction of ground-breaking new treatments like PARP inhibitors and wider genomic testing.

“Progress is possible, but Pathfinder demonstrates that these improvements are not enough.

“Ovarian cancer is not going away. We can change the course of this disease.”

Target Ovarian Cancer is calling on the public to write to their MPs to bring urgent action to raise the profile of ovarian cancer and the impact it is having on people’s lives.

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