In today’s society women are busier than ever. In fact, a third of UK mothers are the main breadwinners in the family but are still juggling many responsibilities – career, housework, family, social commitments and friendships.1 Therefore, it can be easy to overlook one’s health when there is barely enough time in the day for ‘me time’. In this blog, we’re looking at some of the ways women can be proactive about their general health – including information about ovarian cancer.
In the UK, ovarian cancer is a serious disease with 7,000 women diagnosed each year, and a devastating 4,300 women lose their lives each year to it; that’s 12 women every day, and survival rates in the UK are amongst some of the worst in Europe.2
Your ovarian health matters
As with many forms of cancer, early diagnosis can save lives. According to the UK charity Target Ovarian Cancer, when a woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, her chance of surviving ovarian cancer for five years or more doubles from 46 per cent to more than 90 per cent.2 But late diagnosis, limited choice of treatments and a feeling of isolation when diagnosed can be real barriers to progress, so how can women be more proactive?
Know the symptoms
Knowing your own body is a good way to recognise illnesses and diseases sooner rather than later, so it’s useful to conduct regular examinations and understand what to look out for, such as an increase in the frequency and persistency of the following symptoms3:
- Feeling constantly bloated, with a noticeable increase in abdominal size. This often leads to feeling full quickly and difficulty eating
- Experiencing pelvic or abdominal pain
- An increase in the need and urgency to urinate
- Unexpected weight loss
- Change in bowel habits
- Extreme fatigue
It’s important to remember that not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, but if you’re experiencing any one or more of these and are concerned, then please book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.
Age is a risk factor for ovarian cancer; women around 50 years old who have already gone through the menopause are at the highest risk.4 Having said that, there are a growing number of cases – at least a thousand per year – of younger women developing the disease4, which makes it all the more important to know the symptoms and get treatment as early as possible.
Eight out of ten cases are sporadic, meaning close female relatives face no increased risk of contracting the disease themselves. However, two in ten cases are believed to be caused by an inherited faulty gene, which is often the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Any woman who has one of these genes has a much higher risk of developing ovarian and/or breast cancer.4
Looking after yourself
Life’s busy – that’s a given, but it’s important that you spend some time looking after yourself. Look after your general wellbeing by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthily and staying physically active. It’s also important to take time to talk about the stresses and strains of everyday life – ask your partner, husband, family and friends for support where possible to relieve some of the burden and pressure to ‘do it all’.
Physical activity to boost health
Include some form of physical activity into your daily routine. Walk the kids to school, or take turns with your partner to do the school run, and on your ‘day off’ walk or jog to work if time allows. You may find the gym daunting, or you don’t want to fork out for a gym membership, but don’t worry, we have a blog on ways you can get fit without having to go to a gym!
The important thing is to ensure you’re doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week to stay fit and healthy, as recommended by the NHS.
We appreciate that having a busy schedule may make having regular GP check-ups difficult, but you can’t afford to be passive about your health. Take a proactive approach, learn about your family history and know your body – no matter your age. We hope that this post inspires you to make some positive steps to keep fit and well!
To visit the Target Ovarian Cancer website, click here.
1 IPPR http://www.ippr.org/news-and-media/press-releases/one-third-of-mothers-in-working-families-are-breadwinners-in-britain
2 Target Ovarian Cancer http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/useful-links/media-centre/key-facts-and-figures
3 Target Ovarian Cancer http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/about-ovarian-cancer/what-ovarian-cancer/ovarian-cancer-symptoms
4 Target Ovarian Cancer http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/about-ovarian-cancer/what-ovarian-cancer/risk-factors-and-prevention