South West woman Robyn Gerace is using Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to urge women to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of ovarian cancer, following her shock diagnosis in June 2022.
The Bunbury local said her unexplained weight gain and bloating around her stomach led her to see her GP.
"I started to notice a lot of fat around my stomach, and I was constantly bloated. I didn't understand what was happening, so I decided to see my GP who ran some tests," Ms Gerace said.
"The tests came back and it was stage 3 ovarian cancer. My husband and I cried for almost two hours, then I decided that I needed to put all my energy into getting better."
Robyn underwent a radical hysterectomy and four months of chemotherapy before she was told she was in remission in 2023.
She said all women should be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
"I urge all women to pay attention to any symptoms that are unusual, persistent or troublesome," she said.
"Arming yourself with knowledge of the symptoms of ovarian cancer is your best chance for an earlier diagnosis."
Cancer Council WA's Julie Rose said women needed to remain vigilant as ovarian cancer symptoms were vague and women often attribute them to other benign conditions.
Arming yourself with knowledge of the symptoms of ovarian cancer is your best chance for an earlier diagnosis.- Robyn Gerace
"Because it's difficult to detect in its early stages, there are more deaths from ovarian cancer in Australia than any other gynaecological cancer," Julie 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.
"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, eating a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, and reducing alcohol intake."
Symptoms can include:
- Pain in the lower stomach or abdomen
- A swollen, bloated, or full feeling in the stomach or abdomen
- Irregular periods or vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Urinating more often than usual
- A change in bowel habits
- Pain during sex
- Not feeling hungry
- Heartburn or nausea
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Feeling tired
Ovarian cancer is most common in women over the age of 50. In 2019, 95 WA women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 63 WA women died from ovarian cancer.
For more information, visit www.cancerwa.asn.au