Clinical FeaturesOncology

The Irish Network for Gynaecological Oncology: Giving a Voice to Gynaecological Cancers in Ireland

New research carried out in April 2024 amongst adult women in Ireland, has highlighted that four out of five are not confident to recognise the symptoms of ovarian cancer. The study was commissioned by the Irish Network for Gynaecological Oncology (INGO) ( irish-network-for-gynaecologicaloncology/) to mark World Ovarian Cancer Day on Wednesday 8th May 2024. The INGO is a voluntary group of over thirty of Ireland’s foremost gynaecological cancer campaigners, researchers and patient advocates whose aim is to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers across the Island of Ireland. The group are part of an international effort for 2 major awareness events annually; World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8th and World Gynaecological Oncology Day on September 20th.

Unfortunately, more than three quarters of patients with ovarian cancer are diagnosed when the disease is at a late stage. This is partly due to the vagueness of symptoms and similarity with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, and in some cases, symptoms may not always be obvious or present at all.

The INGO run an annual campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and encourage women to contact and explain their symptoms to their GP if they are worried, as early diagnosis can save lives. The campaign emphasises the BEAT symptoms:

  • Bloating that is persistent and doesn’t come and go
  • Eating less and feeling full more quickly
  • Abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days
  • Toilet changes in urination or bowel habits

The clear message is that if a woman experiences any of these symptoms for three weeks or more, she should contact her GP.

The INGO partnered with Brazilian street artist Brutto who created an impressive mural on Grafton Street on May 4th 2024 depicting BEAT messaging, which was widely shared on social media and educated passersby on ovarian cancer symptoms.

Several notable landmarks across the country lit up in teal, World Ovarian Cancer Day’s official colour, on the 8th of May, including Leinster House in Dublin, the Titanic Museum Belfast and City Hall in Cork.

Annually, approximately 400 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and almost 300 women die from this disease in the Republic of Ireland (National Cancer Registry Ireland). In Northern Ireland, almost 300 are diagnosed and 128 women die (Northern Ireland Cancer Registry). Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women in Ireland, after lung, breast, and colorectal cancer.

There is no standard screening test to pick up ovarian cancer in women who don’t have symptoms. Early diagnosis can significantly improve survival – 88% of patients diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer are alive five years after diagnosis compared to 17% with stage four ovarian cancer.

The campaign also sought to dispel the myth that cervical screening detects ovarian cancer. The research showed that one in three mistakenly believe that CervicalCheck Screening Programme checks for all five gynaecological cancers (ovarian, cervical, uterine, vulva and vaginal). It is important for women to understand that cervical screening only checks whether a woman is at risk of having cervical cancer and no other cancer type.

The INGO will continue to highlight gynaecological cancers and are working with key stakeholders in an effort to improve on the current low awareness levels of symptoms.

On September 20th, World Gynaecological Oncology Day, the INGO will focus their message on all five gynaecological cancers.

The Irish Network for Gynaecological Oncology (INGO) Members ARC Cancer Support Centres, Dublin; Answers for Cancer Podcast team; Breakthrough Cancer Research; Cancer Care West; Cancer Trials Ireland; CERVIVA; Circle of Friends Cancer Support Centre; Coombe Hospital, Dublin; Cork ARC Cancer Support; Cork Cancer Care Centre; East Galway and Midlands Cancer Support Centre; Emer Casey Foundation; Irish Cancer Society; Irish Society of Gynaecological Oncology; Karen Fenton Ovarian Cancer Fund; Lynch Syndrome Ireland; Marie Keating Foundation; Mater Hospital Dublin; National Cancer Control Programme; National Immunisation Office; National Women’s Council of Ireland; OvaCare; Hive Cancer Support, Derry; Purple House Cancer Support; Queens, Belfast; Sláinte an Chláir; Sligo Cancer Support; SOCK; Swell Fermanagh Cancer Survivorship Group; St. James’s Hospital Foundation (GynaeCancerCare); Trinity College Dublin; Trinity St. James’s Cancer Institute; University College Cork; University College Dublin School of Medicine; University College Dublin Gynaecological Oncology Group and 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group.

For more information, please visit:

Written by Dr Sharon O’Toole, Trinity College Dublin and Co-ordinator of the INGO, on behalf of the Irish Network for Gynaecological Oncology

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