Bassendean resident Kellie Curtis is urging women to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of ovarian cancer, following her diagnosis at just 38 years old.
Kellie says ovarian cancer is hard to detect in its early stages which can often lead to misdiagnosis. She says more needs to be done to alert women to the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
"I had never heard of ovarian cancer, the symptoms, or what it took to get a correct diagnosis," Kellie said.
Kellie was experiencing many of the symptoms in the lead up to diagnosis; however she was oblivious to the possibility of it being cancer, as many of the symptoms can be overlooked.
"I was constantly tired and bloated and there was a feeling of fullness that wouldn't go away," she said.
"I had a stabbing pain in my lower back pain that was waking me up in the middle of the night.
"I started having to go to the toilet all the time - sometimes up to four times a night.
"I had frequent bleeding and my periods were extremely irregular."
Kellie knows firsthand how easy it is for symptoms to fall through the cracks, and is strongly urging women to familiarise themselves with the symptoms in order to get the necessary checks.
"I knew something wasn't right, so I started doing some research when I realised there was a commonality of symptoms with my stepsister's mum, who was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer," Kellie said.
"Arming yourself with knowledge of the symptoms is your best chance for an earlier diagnosis followed by swift action.
"A PAP test cannot detect ovarian cancer. An early detection test is needed so women can be treated as soon as possible.
"Ask for a CA125 blood test and a pelvic ultra sound, which can lead to scans and a laparoscopic biopsy for correct diagnosis.
"Raising awareness about early detection is what I strive for, so more mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives and husbands can continue to have the women they love in their lives."
Cancer Council WA's Cancer Education and Screening Manager, Melissa Treby, said women needed to remain vigilant as ovarian cancer symptoms were vague and women often attribute them to other benign conditions.
"Because it's difficult to detect in its early stages, there are more deaths from ovarian cancer in Australia than any other gynaecological cancer," Ms Treby said.
"If you have any of the symptoms and they happen on most days for three weeks or more, particularly if you're over 50 or have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, go to your doctor and get a check-up," she said.
"You won't be wasting the doctor's time, and in most cases it won't be anything to worry about, but if it is cancer and you find it early, your chances of successfully treating it are much greater.
"More research is required to better understand the causes of ovarian cancer, but as with many cancers there are steps we can all do to reduce our overall individual cancer risk, including quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, getting enough exercise and fruit and vegetables, and reducing alcohol intake."
Symptoms can include:
- pain in the lower tummy (abdomen) or side
- a bloated, full feeling in the abdomen
- irregular periods or vaginal bleeding after menopause
- back pain
- passing urine more often than usual
- change in bowel habits or constipation
- pain during sex
- a swollen abdomen
- a feeling of fullness or loss of appetite
- indigestion or nausea
For more information about ovarian cancer, visit cancerwa.asn.au or call Cancer Council WA's cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for access to free cancer publications, confidential support and referrals.