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6 women in their 20s who survived ovarian cancer tell us about their experiences

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Megan Murray
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Do you know the four main symptoms? 

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in British women, accounting for 4% of all cancer diagnoses in the UK.

But despite this fact, a surprisingly low number of us (we’re putting our hands up here, too) can name the full list of ovarian cancer symptoms, or recognise how to spot it early on – both of which are essential to improving chances of survival.

Cancer is a subject that when out of sight, is out of mind, leaving many of us to presume that this type of cancer only effects women in later in life. But devastatingly, this is far from true. 

We spoke to six women who all battled ovarian cancer in their 20s, about how important vigilance and awareness are for women of any age, to help them recognize the symptoms of this illness. 

Each of these women admits that they didn’t think they were old enough to be affected, and didn’t know all the symptoms until they were. Here, they give us a glimpse into their experiences.

Suzie, 27

“I kind of felt like I wanted to go in a corner and rock for a little while, it was…yeah it was horrible. It was like the world kind of crashing down on top of me, which I’ve never felt before. 

“I’d say it’s incredibly important for all women to know the symptoms. Being young, we feel immortal. To me, I just felt like I was maybe burning the candle at both ends.”

Seren, 23

“I went to my GP and he said to me, I don’t want to scare you but please go to A&E. I couldn’t really comprehend that I could have had cancer at such a young age. Like, I never thought of it until someone said it to me.”

Laura, 29

“To hear that at 27, is just…your whole world shatters. I went into this negative mode, and I was sitting there talking in front of my parents about things like – I’m going to die going to die, my funeral. 

“When actually we need to change how we view cancer and know that cancer doesn’t discriminate. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re 13, 15, 20, 50, 60. It doesn’t discriminate.

“If we can change how women have that relationship with their bodies then hopefully the statistics of how many women end up in A&E with advanced ovarian cancer will drop.

“It’s knowledge that will mean that that small percentage of time when something is there it’ll be picked up quicker, giving women a much, much better prognosis.”

Allison, 27

“I’ll never forget that day. I broke down. That was the first time I broke down. 

“Maybe if I had known the symptoms, maybe I would have gone earlier to the doctors, because the symptoms were there.”

Anna, 20

“They were like ‘it’s not great news’. It’s a really aggressive form and you need chemo straight away to make sure it doesn’t spread. 

“An early diagnosis is life-saving.”

Chay, 27

“A lot of people think that ovarian cancer is a silent killer, but that’s not the case at all. The symptoms and signs are there. You just have to be willing to listen to it and to notice the changes in your body. 

“At first I put it down to sort of exam stress. I didn’t really think much of it.”

The four main symptoms of ovarian cancer are: 

Persistent bloating and not bloating that comes and goes

Feeling full quickly or a loss of appetite

Pelvic or abdominal pain

Needing to wee more urgently or often than usual

You can read more about what ovarian cancer is, its symptoms and how it’s treated here

Images: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.