OVARIAN cancer is known as the silent killer.
And two Weymouth women, brought together by their diagnosis of the disease, are determined to get women talking about it.
Tragically, around 7,000 women each year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 4,300 women die from it.
More often than not it is only when the disease has spread that it is detected with just a 43 per cent five-year survival rate. This is one of the lowest for all cancers.
Yet Littlemoor community leader Jan Hinton and former teacher Gill Harler are fighting the disease with everything they’ve got.
They are speaking out ahead of Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in March and want to educate women to recognise what ‘persistent’ symptoms to look out for which could indicate there is a more serious problem that needs investigating.
Gill said: “Women often end up going to their doctor several times before the disease is diagnosed.
“Unfortunately GPs need access to better training in recognising the symptoms.
“Before going to the doctor, please ask yourself if the symptoms are persistent – these can include a chronically bloated stomach, abdominal pain, feeling full quickly, nausea and bowel problems.”
She told the Echo that people with a family history of ovarian cancer should also be taken seriously.
Jan, 56, said: “Women lack awareness of the disease and its symptoms.
“We need more awareness, more understanding and more funding for research as well as support from the Minister of Health.
“If a patient still has these symptoms for a while after first being seen by a doctor, ovarian cancer should be considered."
A blood test to measure CA125, which is a protein produced by ovarian tumour cells, can detect the disease, however, other conditions such as Endometriosis and inflammation can raise CA125 levels so the results may not be accurate.
Gill added: “Some women think they’ve been checked for ovarian cancer with a smear test, but this is not so. Ovarian Cancer can affect women of any age, there are women in their twenties and upwards on our ovarian cancer website with this disease therefore it doesn’t just affect post menopausal women.
“If one woman reads this |and thinks I’ve got some of |those persistent symptoms and does something about it, then speaking out is worthwhile,” says Jan. Both agreed that too many women are being diagnosed with IBS when this might not be the case as IBS usually occurs in your twenties.
Gill and Jan, who have provided each other comfort for the last few months, met through the Echo at the hair salon where Jan visited to dye her hair rainbow colours ahead of her chemotherapy treatment.
They thanked medical staff, family and friends who have helped them along their journey.
WEYMOUTH'S Gill Harler is an example of how an ovarian cancer diagnosis can be alarmingly difficult.
She told the Echo: "I was diagnosed with advanced Ovarian Cancer April 2011. I struggled to eat for over three years, felt full after a cup of tea and had persistent bloating but this was never picked up by the doctors.
"At the same time my mum was also terminally ill with this disease, alarm bells should have rung and I should have been more insistent.
"Bloating does not mean to say you have ovarian cancer, it is about persistent bloating that never goes away.
“I have one very close friend in Weymouth who was told she had IBS for about five years and another who lives here who was told for over a year that she too had IBS but both have stage one ovarian cancer.”
Gill underwent her first line of chemotherapy and was in remission until the end of last year when the cancer returned
She added: “I'm just hoping that the second line of chemotherapy goes well, I will keep fighting.”
CRAZY wigs and brightly-coloured hats have been helping Littlemoor community leader Jan Hinton with her battle against ovarian cancer.
She was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer last September and has just finished her first line of chemotherapy.
She first put down extra feelings of tiredness and stomach pain down to the stress of organising a community fun day and was originally treated for stomach pain.
Following a second doctor's appointment and a blood test, she was referred to a specialist and diagnosed.
"If the doctor hadn't picked up on it I might not even be here today.
"I was told due to its advanced nature it was a terminal.
"I've just completed my first line of chemotherapy and its gone well- I'm now waiting to see if I will have an operation to remove my ovaries."
She added: “I had no typical symptoms but had stomach pain, I was diagnosed within five weeks and it went from there. It just shows that everyone is different.
“My specialist told me he was 90 per cent sure I had ovarian cancer and he was right.”
The 56-year-old says a bag full of crazy wigs and hats he helped her get through her hair loss- as well as the staggering support from the Littlemoor community.
MARCH is ovarian cancer awareness month- and Dorset residents are being urged to get involved.
Ovacome's BEAT ovarian cancer campaign aims to make every woman in the UK aware of the symptoms of the fifth most common cancer for women in the UK.
It is an easy to remember acronym of the main symptoms of the disease: B is for bloating that does not come and go; E is for eating less and feeling fuller quicker; A is for abdominal pain and T is for telling your GP.
Ovacome chief executive Louise Bayne, said: “In the past 20 years, there has been a transformation in the way ovarian cancer is treated - but public awareness of the symptoms has not kept up with this medical progress.
“Women are becoming more aware of other common female cancers and how to spot them - but ovarian cancer has been left behind.
“In our view, the medical profession also has some work to do to raise awareness of the symptoms with their patients and to listen seriously to women who present with problems that could be linked to ovarian cancer.
“A typical GP will only see one case in every five years and most of these will be from women at the time of their menopause or later - it's easy to understand why they want to dismiss other, less serious causes of symptoms such as IBS, bloating, weight gain before thinking the worst - particularly in a younger woman.
“However, this needs to change.
“Ovarian cancer needs to be investigated as an option early on.
“If it's caught at the earliest stage, patients have a 90 per cent survival rate beyond five years.”
For awareness month they are running two campaigns- one named Teal Tips in which women are asked to wear teal varnish to start discussions about the disease and The Big Ovacome Bake Off.
Also, Ovacome is the only ovarian cancer charity to have a nurse led support line - 0845 371 0554.