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BBC Lifeline Appeal Ovarian Cancer Action

10 Jun 2021

Rosie  0:12  

I thought the worst thing that I would ever have to do was tell my children that they had to be tested. 

Laura  0:18  

To find out that I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer at the age of 27 felt like my world came crashing down around me.

Suzie  0:28  

At that point, hearing the C word, it was a mixture, I'd say of denial and optimism.

Julia Bradbury  0:37  

Ovarian cancer is the UK deadliest gynaecological disease and over 7000 cases are diagnosed every year. Each one of these women, is a daughter, a mother, a sister or a friend, which is why I'm here to talk to you about the important work of the charity Ovarian Cancer Action. They work tirelessly to raise awareness of the early symptoms of this disease, and also fund vital scientific research into treatments for women who have to deal with a cancer diagnosis. Rosie is 70. Her first experience with cancer was when she was a young girl and her mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within two years, sadly, she'd passed away.

Rosie  1:15  

It was a big impact on my life. I know that I worried about breast cancer. Ever since I grew up, and unknown to me so did my three sisters. We never made a connection between breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Julia Bradbury  1:33  

But it wasn't until 2016 that Rosie's family was affected by cancer again when her sister was diagnosed with stage three, ovarian cancer.

Rosie  1:43  

She was immediately advised to have genetic testing that she did. And this revealed she had a BRCA1 gene mutation. And therefore, her four siblings should also be tested.

Julia Bradbury  1:55  

Rosie was tested for the BRCA1 mutation, which has been found to greatly increase a person's chances of developing certain cancers, including ovarian cancer,

Rosie  2:05  

I can still remember the day that I got the phone call to say that I had the mutation. I was advised to have my ovaries removed. And I thought the worst thing that I would ever have to do was tell my children that they had to be tested. Sadly, my daughter did have the gene mutation, They discovered two very aggressive tumours, so she immediately had to start chemotherapy. There's probably nothing worse than hearing your daughter's got cancer.

Julia Bradbury  2:32  

Within 8 months, Rosie, her two sisters and her daughter had all been diagnosed with cancer.

Rosie  2:40  

It's pretty tough. Thankfully, we all got through our chemotherapy, and actually brought us so close together.

Rosie's daughter  2:50  

Had I not known about the BRCA than I wouldn't have been tested, it all happened quite quickly really didn't it.

Rosie  2:56  

I always say that my younger sister saved our lives, because she was at a much more advanced stage. The charity, fill me with hope that the next generation will be so much better informed.

Julia Bradbury  3:14  

Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is a frightening experience for any woman, although five year survival rates are improving, they're still far behind the rates of other cancers, and that's why the charity is committed to funding research into new treatments and developing screening tools which hopefully one day will be available to women across the UK. Suzie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017. After feeling fatigued, generally run down for some time.

Suzie  3:43  

Because I was 25 at the time I didn't really think anything of it I thought I was maybe burning the candle at both ends, and then it wasn't until, when I went back to work. I was so, so exhausted at that point I went straight to the GP and did some kind of blood tests to get things moving because she really did think I looked on well. 

Julia Bradbury  4:02  

Suzie's blood tests indicated that there might be something wrong, so she was referred to hospital for a scan. It was then that doctors found a mass on her left ovary, and she was advised to have immediate surgery.

Suzie  4:15  

So never at any point that I think about it in cancer. The surgeon said that it was at stage one, which is very low, and he felt quite positive.

Julia Bradbury  4:26  

But six weeks later, a further scan showed the cancer had spread to Suzie's lymph nodes.

Laura  4:32  

Over the last four years, I have been through three surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy, full abdominal radiotherapy, a drugs trial, and immunotherapy really is the very last option that I've got,

Julia Bradbury  4:50  

Having exhausted all standard treatment options available on the NHS, Suzie is now self funding, immunotherapy treatment. It's expensive, but she knows it offers her the best possible chance to overcome ovarian cancer, once and for all.

Professor Iain McNeish  5:06  

For some cancers where immunotherapy has completely altered, how patients are treated, every day in the NHS. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer doesn't behave in the same way. And that's why it's really important that we research and understand the fundamental interactions between ovarian cancer, and the immune system so that we can develop new immunotherapies that are specific for ovarian cancer. Research costs money. So, I am fantastically grateful to the generosity of the Great British public. And it's through that generosity that we're able to do our work everyday,

Julia Bradbury  5:50  

Research is critical when it comes to helping women like Suzie in the future. Ovarian cancer is an insidious disease which can easily be mistaken for less serious conditions. This can delay treatment, and the results can be devastating, having already been misdiagnosed numerous times. Laura's pain became so intense, she admitted herself twice to A&E.

Suzie  6:13  

To find out that I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer at the age of 27 felt like my world came crashing down around me. I have pictures that show me with my tummy that looked like I was six months pregnant. It was clear something was wrong.

Julia Bradbury  6:29  

Laura wasn't wholly surprised by the diagnosis, having tested positive for the BRCA mutation, earlier in the year.

Suzie  6:36  

I knew that I had an increased lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer. However, I never thought that the ovarian cancer risk because statistics don't point to that becoming a risk, until much older.

Julia Bradbury  6:49  

Because of the seriousness of our cancer, Laura was advised to have radical debulking surgery, as well as 18 weeks of chemotherapy.

Suzie  6:58  

I had my fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix wound, everything removed, I lost my fertility, at the age of 27. It's hard to lost something so young. Hopefully one day I will still get to be a mum.

Julia Bradbury  7:15  

Laura is now cancer free and through her blog, she's keen to raise awareness of her experience with ovarian cancer.

Laura  7:21  

I was so happy to get messages from people saying thank you for sharing. Early diagnosis is really important. That is why women need to be aware of what is normal for their bodies and push and push and push if they feel something is not right.

Although the research that's going on at the moment may not necessarily help me, it can really pave the way for women that are facing cancer, a beam of hope really

Julia Bradbury  7:54  

Ovarian Cancer Action is about just that - action, your money will help fund vital research into new treatments treatments which will transform the lives of women, for generations to come. To make a donation, please go to the website, www.ovarian.org.uk/donate if you want to donate by phone then call 020 7380 1730, or if you'd like to post a donation. Please make your cheque payable to Ovarian Cancer Action and send it to Ovarian Cancer Action 483 Green lanes, London, N13 4BS. 

Thanks for your support.