During the pandemic, some of us in New Zealand may have felt uneasy about visiting our medical centres or GP’s. In fact, the psychosocial effects of COVID-19 have been a significant factor in declining numbers of cancer tests as the country dealt with lockdowns and the “new normal” we found ourselves in.
Fear of contracting the virus, economic burden and anxiety has deterred patients from seeking medical attention for new symptoms or from attending routine checks.
New Zealand has now seen testing and diagnosis numbers increase as we manage the virus and get on with life – but for women facing ovarian cancer, this may not be enough.
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In New Zealand ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cause of female cancer death and one in 70 New Zealand women will be affected by ovarian cancer in their lifetime, yet there is no screening for the disease.
A visit to the GP can make the difference when it comes to early detection, so we’re asking you to make sure you get medical attention if you have concerns.
A cervical smear does not test for ovarian cancer, but if you have symptoms (such as pain, bloating, needing to urinate often, bowel habit changes and lethargy) there are tests for the disease — a blood test (ca-125) and transvaginal ultrasound.
It is important to remember that most women with symptoms do not have ovarian cancer, but if testing does find cancer, early detection will make it easier to treat.
There’s also no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant effect on the mental health and wellbeing of patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
We’re here for you every step of the way – we help women find support, advocate for and raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and fund low-grade serous ovarian cancer research. Please reach out if you need to and remember that you can – and should – see a doctor if you have any concerns about your health.
Don’t wait. Contact your doctor. Get checked.