MILLIONS of lives are “at risk” as one in five women WRONGLY think smear tests can detect ovarian cancer, experts have warned.
Health charities say the misconception means many women assume they are “protected” and can lead to late diagnosis.
Currently, there is no screening for ovarian cancer, which affects 25,000 women in the UK, and smear tests are in fact used to detect cervical cancer.
A survey carried out by Target Ovarian Cancer and YouGov has indicated that this mistake leaves 22% of UK women – more than five million – at risk.
More women died from ovarian cancer in the UK than from all other gynaecological cancers combined in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK.
I had always thought cervical screening detected ovarian cancer, and that I was covered when I had my smear tests
Pat Taylor, 67, from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017.
She said: “I had always thought cervical screening detected ovarian cancer, and that I was covered when I had my smear tests.
“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 after a two-year delay, it was such a shock.
“Now I want all women to be vigilant of the symptoms of ovarian cancer – better awareness will save lives.”
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
- Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
- Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
- Pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s your tummy and below)
- Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)
Symptoms for ovarian cancer include persistently feeling bloated, a loss of appetite, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate more regularly and urgently, according to charity Target Ovarian Cancer.
Annwen Jones, chief executive of the charity, said: “We need to combat the confusion around ovarian cancer and cervical screening, because while smear tests are a vital tool in public health, a similar option simply does not exist in ovarian cancer.”
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March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, when Target Ovarian Cancer tries to raise awareness of the disease.
Ms Jones added: “While we welcome Government investment in raising awareness of the cervical screening programme this March, the ovarian cancer community is painfully aware that 11 women die every day from ovarian cancer and we urgently need to see a national ovarian cancer symptoms awareness campaign.”
As part of the survey, YouGov asked 1,070 women about ovarian cancer.
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