Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 13:27 UK

Campaign call for ovarian cancer

By Matthew Hill
Health correspondent, BBC West

Annie Chillingworth
Mrs Chillingworth said she was wrongly diagnosed for a year

A mother with ovarian cancer has urged ministers to do more to highlight the symptoms after she said her condition was wrongly diagnosed for a year.

Annie Chillingworth, from Sherborne, Dorset, was given a terminal diagnosis in February after initially being told she had irritable bowel syndrome.

A cancer charity poll showed 80% of the GPs asked wrongly thought that women with early stage disease had no signs.

The Royal College of GPs said it was "extraordinarily difficult" to spot.

Mother-of-three Mrs Chillingworth, 44, is now calling on the Department of Health to launch a campaign urging women and GPs to spot symptoms and act fast.

The teacher, who said she told her GP she had a history of cancer in the family, had complained of an irritable and swollen bowel a year ago but said she was reassured and went away.

'Silent killer'

But over the following months the symptoms persisted, her abdomen became swollen and she even took a home pregnancy test, before being sent for a referral.

If you in your heart think this is not right, these symptoms are persistent and have had them for a long time then you must try to do something about it
Annie Chillingworth

Mrs Chillingworth said she was particularly struck by the findings of a survey by charity Target Ovarian Cancer which surveyed 400 family doctors across the country.

It showed that 69% of GPs questioned were not aware women with ovarian cancer were more likely to experience frequent, sudden and persistent symptoms than women with irritable bowel syndrome.

She said: "I wish that I had been more assertive.

"If you in your heart think this is not right, these symptoms are persistent and have had them for a long time then you must try to do something about it. Don't be fobbed off."

Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It's extraordinarily difficult to diagnose this silent killer early.

"GPs are aware that persistent abdominal pain and increased abdominal circumference (bloating) can be symptoms.

"But the more we can do to raise awareness of ovarian cancer - and remind patients and doctors that it can creep up on people - the better."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Key messages for ovarian cancer for health professionals are currently being developed and will be published shortly.

"These will help health professionals to recognise the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer more easily."



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