Poet Laurate for Wexford, Sasha Terfous; Dr Sharon O’ Toole, Senior Research Fellow in Trinity College Dublin; and artist and fashion designer, Helen Steele at the launch of the BEAT campaign. Photo: Conor Healy/Picture It Photography

Campaign to BEAT ovarian cancer

A campaign raising awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer will begin this weekend.

The BEAT campaign coincides with World Ovarian Cancer Day this Sunday and will include the publication of new research detailing the lack of awareness amongst Irish women of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Supporting the campaign is Cork ovarian cancer survivor June Feeney who was diagnosed when her daughter was just four days old.

Prior to her diagnosis, Ms Feeney had gone for numerous smear tests, but was not aware that the tests do not detect ovarian cancer. Doctors told Mr Feeney, had she not been pregnant, her cancer would have gone undetected for much longer.

According to Irish Network for Gynaecological Oncology (INGO), ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death in gynaecological cancers in the world. Latest figures place Ireland as having the highest death rate in Europe from ovarian cancer. The research shows that over 75% of patients present with late-stage disease, partly due to the vagueness of symptoms and the similarity with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

In Ireland, over 400 women present with ovarian cancer annually and most cases occur in women over 50 years of age. The INGO is working to increase awareness of symptoms in women over 50 to help them seek help quickly.

The organisation is working to communicate the symptoms of ovarian cancer to a larger audience while highlighting the lack of awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the misperception that a cervical screening detects ovarian cancer.

The campaign focuses on informing women of the signs of ovarian cancer and getting help at an early stage if experiencing any of the below (BEAT) signs for three weeks or more.

• Bloating that is persistent and doesn’t come and go

• Eating less and feeling full more quickly

• Abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days

• Toilet changes in urination or bowel habits

INGO said the symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be confused with irritable bowel syndrome, but this rarely presents for the first time in a woman over 50.

The campaign was established by artist and fashion designer Helen Steele, who has designed a tote bag spelling out BEAT to increase awareness. To mark World Ovarian Cancer Day, ten buildings across Ireland will be lit up in the campaign colour, teal.