Raising awareness of little known killer
Published at: 22 Feb 2019
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,” Peter Copulos Wellness Centre Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) Linley Smith said.
“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 affected all ages, and was 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 preferred 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.
“Ovarian cancer is very hard to diagnose,” Ms Smith said.
“Unfortunately we get a lot of ladies late stage. Lynette noticed a lump getting bigger and thought she’d better do something about it.”
Lynette was in the Peter MacCallum Centre for two weeks, and began chemotherapy at Peter Copulos in November, 2015.
“My treatment is ongoing,” she said.
“I’ve been told there’s no cure, but I go into remission regularly.”
“Lynette is doing well,” Ms Smith said.
“She’s been coming in for about four years now. She still has a few options - she’s doing well.
“I can’t say it’s a wonderful journey,” Lynette said.
“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 said she was grateful for the opportunity to be treated locally, and appreciated 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.
“If you have abnormal periods, back pain, bloating, abdominal pain, any concerns, go and see your GP. Don’t put it off, because it’s much harder to treat in its later stages.”
Ms Smith said that patients may not need chemotherapy in the event that ovarian cancer is identified early.
Lynette said she was optimistic about the future.
“I just go with the flow, there’s no reason why things shouldn’t go well," she said.
To view a video of Peter Copulos Wellness Centre Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) Linley Smith click here.