Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on ovarian cancer on Wednesday 12th October, Winchester MP Steve Brine called on the Care Services Minister to act now to improve awareness of symptoms amongst women.
He highlighted just how few women are aware of the most commonly experienced symptom of ovarian cancer, which is the fourth biggest cancer killer in women. Just 9% are aware that persistent bloating is a key symptom of ovarian cancer, compared to 76% of women knowing the importance of getting a lump in the breast checked out.
Mr Brine said: I highlighted the enormous improvements made in recent years in breast cancer survival, as a result of better awareness, improved treatments and screening. I was also able to pay tribute to the many breast cancer survivors who hve helped this to happen by telling their story, and encouraging more women with ovarian cancer to share their experiences more widely.
"Ovarian cancer used to be considered a silent killer, but new guidance on symptoms mean this is no longer true. However, the lack of awareness, and lack of Department of Health led activity in this area is a silent national scandal."
The Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study showed only 4% of women felt very confident about naming a symptom of the disease. It also revealed a third had to wait six months or more for a correct diagnosis.
Mr Brine is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer. APPG chair Sharon Hodgson MP said: "Currently, nearly a third of women are diagnosed after going to A&E, and a third of women wait six months or more before getting a correct diagnosis. A national awareness campaign encouraging more women to come forward and get tested would have a direct impact on early diagnosis, hugely increasing survival rates for women with the disease.
"Securing this debate was therefore a key objective of the APPG, as it gave us the chance to put our concerns directly to the Minister, and ensure that the Government is aware of the full facts of the situation, because too many women are dying needlessly at the moment."
Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, praised the MPs' determination to make a difference: "Women in the UK are not being diagnosed quickly enough because not enough women and GPs know what symptoms to look for. As a consequence women go undiagnosed until their cancer is advanced which means it's much harder to treat successfully.
"Target Ovarian Cancer works alongside MPs to ensure that the Government is aware of the full facts about the tragedy of this disease which is that late diagnosis claims too many women's lives. The Department of Health's own figures show that 500 women's lives could be saved each year if only the UK matched European survival rates. Today's debate helped to drive home some of these key points with the minister. "
Care Services Minister Mr Paul Burstow MP, responding at the end of the debate, acknowledged that the Department of Health were now looking at piloting an ovarian cancer campaign, and he agreed to meet with representatives of the All Party Parliamentary Group as they requested.
For more information, visit www.targetovariancancer.org.uk.
You can watch this debate at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9070.