Cervical Cancer Awareness Week
Cervical Cancer awareness week runs from the 8th-14th of June this year. Dr Frances Stewart, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist talks to us about Ovarian Cancer - part of our HealthStyle Magazine
“I remember thinking, she’s too young,” says Eleanor. “Like being in your twenties makes you immune. She went to the Doctor because she hadn’t been feeling well, she was tired, had lost her appetite and was losing weight. We thought it was a stomach bug but – as it turned out – it was much more than that.”
Cervical Cancer Ovarian Cancer affects around 3,000 women in the UK each year while Ovarian Cancer affects around 6,000. 60% of women whose disease spreads beyond the ovaries, die within 5 years of diagnosis but thankfully, Maura was not one of these women. Early detection meant that she received treatment and is now in remission but cases like hers have led to more concentrated efforts to try and detect cancer earlier.
“We were told that symptoms of ovarian cancer can be harder to recognise because they seem so general. Thankfully, Maura mentioned an aunt of ours who had it and the Doctor decided to look into it, just in case. It’s amazing to think that a throwaway comment might have saved her life.”
Dr Frances Stewart, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, has been working with the 3fivetwo Group to provide health screening for women and is keen to explain that early detection can be key when it comes to beating cancer.
“Methods of ovarian cancer screening exist but have yet to be fully tested and are mainly available to women who have an inherited risk or family history. However, screening has proved to be incredibly effective for detecting cervical cancer and we have seen evidence to suggest that early detection and treatment can prevent about 75% of cancers developing.
“Regular cervical screening can detect changes in the cervix before cancer fully develops. Treatment is more effective earlier in the cancer’s progression so screening can really make a big difference, hence the NHS’s endeavour to invite women between the ages of 25 and 49 to have regular cervical screening tests. However, whilst most women are aware of cervical screens, they don’t realise that these cannot detect ovarian cancer.”
Clinical trials are currently underway in the UK to explore the role regular gynaecological health screening can have when it comes to beating cancer. The United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) began in 2001 with over 1.2 million women invited to take part in the study, including over 200,000 women aged 50 and above from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The participants were split into two groups – those who received regular checks and those who didn’t. Their progress has been followed up for health outcomes and the trial’s main findings will be analysed in 2015 but preliminary results gathered so far have shown that screening has increased participants’ sensitivity and awareness of the dangers of ovarian cancer.
“Public statistics show a lot to support regular screening,” says Frances. “Depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer, survival rates can drop to less than 30% if discovered in the later stages. However, if caught early, they can be as high as 90%. Cervical cancer rates have halved since the 1980s due to an increase in regular cervical screening and research suggests that screening can save up to 4,500 lives each year in England alone! Who knows what possibilities current clinical trials will present next year.”
“Maura keeps joking she’ll go for monthly checks – never mind annual ones,” says Eleanor. “But we’re all now very careful about being having regular screens. We’re so lucky to have Maura still with us but we’re not leaving anything else to chance!”
To find out more about Dr Frances Stewart click here