Written by Sharon O’Toole, Snr Experimental Officer, Obstetrics, Senior Research Fellow, Histopathology – Sharon O’Toole was part of the organising committee of the first World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8th in 2013 and this has now become an annual event.
On World Ovarian Cancer Day, Ireland’s foremost Ovarian Cancer Campaigners, Researchers and Patient Advocates are advising women across Ireland not to ignore the warning signs of Ovarian Cancer, a disease commonly known as the ‘silent killer’.
Ovarian cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death in Ireland. Over 400 women are diagnosed annually with 290 women losing their lives due to the disease (National Cancer Registry Ireland). Ireland ranks among the highest in the world in terms of mortality from ovarian cancer.
There is no screening for ovarian cancer so early diagnosis and treatment are vital. Women are advised to listen to their bodies and consult with their GP if they have persistent bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain; changes in urination, bowel or eating habits including eating less and/or feeling full more quickly. Symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be confused with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. This is why it is important to seek help if you notice persistent changes. Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be particularly vigilant. Talk to your GP, describe new symptoms which are not going away and mention any family history.
The BEAT Ovarian Cancer Campaign focuses on knowing your body, knowing the signs and getting help at an early stage if you have any of the following for three weeks or more:
Symptoms can be similar to other conditions, which can lead to late stage diagnosis and has led to the disease being known as the ‘silent killer’. There is unfortunately no simple diagnostic test or vaccine. There is no replacement for constant vigilance and nobody can afford to ignore their bodies, even during the current public health emergency.
World Ovarian Cancer Day is a global movement bringing women living with ovarian cancer, their families and supporters, patient advocacy organisations, medical practitioners and researchers together each year on the 8th May to raise awareness of ovarian cancer.
To mark World Ovarian Cancer Day, the following buildings have generously agreed to participate in our #TEALights campaign on 8th May by lighting up in teal, the colour associated all over the world with the fight against ovarian cancer – Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare; City Hall, Cork; Clare County Council Offices; Convention Centre, Dublin; Heuston Station, Dublin; East Galway and Midlands Cancer Support Centre, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway; Kilkenny Castle; Mansion House, Dublin; National Concert Hall, Dublin; National University of Ireland, Galway; Pearse Lyons Distillery, Dublin; St. John’s Castle, Limerick; Titanic Belfast and University College Cork.
We are also encouraging everyone to get involved in the #TEALights social media campaign from home. By lighting a tea light, patients, survivors, families and supporters will feel the solidarity of the Irish ovarian cancer community on that day. The groups involved in Ireland include; ARC Cancer Support Centres, Dublin, Breakthrough Cancer Research, Cancer Trials Ireland, CERVIVA, Circle of Friends Cancer Support Centre, Cork ARC Cancer Support, Cork Cancer Care Centre, East Galway and Midlands Cancer Support Centre, Emer Casey Foundation, Irish Cancer Society, Irish Society of Gynaecological Oncology, Karen Fenton Ovarian Cancer Fund, Lynch Syndrome Ireland, Marie Keating Foundation, National Cancer Control Programme, National Immunisation Office, OvaCare, Sláinte an Chláir, SOCK, St. James’s Hospital Foundation (GynaeCancerCare), Trinity College Dublin and 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group. While there have been many advances in the diagnosis and treatment of other cancers, ovarian cancer is just entering the era of targeted therapies with poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors being the most promising drugs that have entered the clinic. PARP inhibitors are having a significant impact as a maintenance treatment on disease free intervals and are more beneficial in patients with a BRCA mutation. Other patient cohorts may benefit also and identifying these will be important for research going forward. On world ovarian cancer day the organisers will host a free webinar on “Ovarian cancer; PARP inhibitors and beyond” given by Dr Dearbhaile Collins. You can register for this free event on http://bit.ly/May8Parp
Another major clinical challenge in ovarian cancer treatment is the development of resistance to chemotherapy. The “holy grail” of identifying patients who will respond to therapy is the focus of some ovarian cancer research groups in Ireland. Researchers collaborate as part of the Irish National Network for Ovarian Cancer Collaboration (INNOVATION) whose mission is to integrate patient clinical management with cutting edge research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer. Embedded in this network is the “patient voice” represented by the patient charities, advocacy groups and the Irish Society for Gynaecological Oncology Public and Patient Involvement (ISGOPPI) Group ensuring research is relevant to the patient.
For more information on World Ovarian Cancer Day visit: www.ovariancancerday.org