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And if spotted at its earliest stage, nine in ten women will survive for at least five years. But when diagnosed late, the figure drops to just one in ten.
‘As we get older, we develop more ailments, so GPs might struggle to spot cancer straight away,’ says Platt. ‘But instead of assuming it’s simply age-related aches and pains, doctors should first refer women for tests – just in case.
‘Another problem is that doctors often wrongly assume older women are not fit enough to undergo surgery. But fitness isn’t defined by age, every woman is different. Women should at the very least be presented with the option of surgery so they can decide for themselves.’ Roofer Green 3D Bedding Set
Experts say older women’s symptoms are too often mistaken for common bowel problems.
‘Women in their 60s and 70s with ovarian cancer symptoms are told they have IBS,’ says Hilary Maxwell, a senior gynaecology nurse and chief executive of cancer support group GO Girls. ‘This seems confusing, given that studies show IBS usually appears before the age of 50.’
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A lack of awareness of red flags among older women is also said to contribute to late diagnosis.
‘This is a generation of women who are not used to talking openly about gynaecological issues,’ says Maxwell. ‘And when patients see their GP, they may talk around the subject because they are embarrassed. So it is important to educate and tell women to be more assured and push GPs to look for cancer.’
Mary Barrett, a former bank clerk from Liverpool, was 68 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 – but doctors later found it most likely developed three years before her diagnosis.
Sadly, the cancer was spotted at such a late stage that she lived for just three more years, and died in 2017, aged 71. Her niece Anna Perkins, 31, an education executive from Manchester says: ‘For a number of years Mary was feeling constantly bloated and her bowel habits changed. She went to her GP but at first he thought it might be IBS or a bladder infection.