Raising awareness of little known killer
Four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia every day. Three will die from the disease. Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer, a fact that hasn’t changed in 30 years.
“Teal Ribbon Day is very important to me,” said Peter Copulos Wellness Centre Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) Linley Smith. “Breast cancer has huge awareness through events like Pink Ribbon Day, but women really need to be educated about ovarian cancer, which is far less well known.”
Ms Smith said that ovarian cancer affects all ages, and that it is not genetic in most cases. Symptoms include back pain, abdominal pain, bloating and abnormal bleeding.
“This is another part of women’s health that requires more focus,” she said. “If you have any concerns, go and see your GP.”
Patient Lynette, who prefers not to use her full name, noticed a lump in her stomach in 2015.
“My GP referred me to have an ultrasound and nothing was found,” she said. “I then had a negative CT scan, and was referred to a surgeon, who sent me to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. It was like a whirlwind.”
Lynette travelled back and forth to Melbourne having tests for six weeks before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I had PET scans, a biopsy, and was referred to a gynaecologist,” she said. “Things moved pretty quickly once I found out - she gave me a full abdominal hysterectomy.”
Tired of travelling for treatment, Lynette was referred back to the Peter Copulos Centre, where she has been having monthly chemotherapy treatments for the past four years.
“I can’t say it’s a wonderful journey,” said Lynette, “But I have to say that the staff at Peter Copulos have been excellent and accommodating to me, especially Dr Tamjid, who is very good.”
Lynette is grateful for the opportunity to be treated locally, and appreciates the rapport she has developed with staff at the Centre.
“We joke and laugh and get on really well up there,” she said. “We banter with each other, saying ‘what are you doing back here?’ and have a giggle.”
Ms Smith is passionate about educating women about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
“We’ve recently had three ladies through, including a young mum, who all sadly passed away because they were late stage,” she said. “
“I just go with the flow, there’s no reason why things shouldn’t go well.
Press play on the video in the banner to watch Linley Smith discuss Teal Ribbon Day.