Lancashire ex-headteacher shares ovarian cancer experience to raise awareness of symptoms

Date posted: 27th March 2024 Lancashire ex-headteacher shares ovarian cancer experience to raise awareness of symptoms thumbnail image

A former headteacher from Lancashire who is living with ovarian cancer wants more women to know the signs and symptoms of the cancer.

Gill Broom, 62, from Clitheroe, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2020.

She is a volunteer with the Dianne Oxberry Trust – a charity focused on raising awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms to people across the North West.

Dianne, who was one of the BBC’s longest-serving presenters, sadly died from ovarian cancer on 10 January 2019.

Gill found out she had ovarian cancer almost a year later. She initially suspected something was wrong when she experienced post-menopausal bleeding while out shopping in September 2020. Postmenopausal bleeding is an uncommon symptom of ovarian cancer and is more common with womb cancer. Fortunately Gill, contacted her GP urgently knowing it was a ‘red-flag symptom’.

After a series of tests, Gill went on to be diagnosed with clear cell ovarian cancer and underwent a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. She was then put on routine checks.

Unfortunately, around a year later in November 2021, a check-up identified some further evidence of cancer spreading to her lymph nodes which she had keyhole surgery to remove. Surgeons were able to remove the cancer and Gill is now monitored with regular blood tests. Her cancer remains stable, but she may need further treatment in future.

Gill, who works part-time for a card and gift business, said: “You don’t see as many leaflets or posters or hear as many stories about ovarian cancer, compared to breast cancer and cervical cancer. I wanted to try and help the Dianne Oxberry Trust help change that.

“As a headteacher I was used to speaking to people so now I do talks to help raise awareness of ovarian cancer and the signs and symptoms. I want everyone to know that it’s really important to see your GP if you suspect you have any potential symptoms of ovarian cancer and to go back and be persistent if you don’t get answers straight away.

“It’s always tempting to make excuses that it could be down to something else, but it’s better to go and get checked out and to be sure either way. Don’t leave it or put it off, just go!

"It’s scary, but for me personally it was scarier when I didn’t know what was wrong. Once you know, you have a plan and I can’t speak highly enough of the care I’ve received from the fantastic staff at Preston, Blackburn and Burnley hospitals.”

Dr Neil Smith, primary care director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said: “We are so grateful to Gill for sharing her experiences and helping to make others more aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can be vague, making it harder to spot in its earliest stages.

“If you’ve noticed any changes in your body, like a swollen tummy, feeling bloated or full more quickly, or an urgent need to pee, please don’t hesitate to contact your GP.”

Find out more about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer on the NHS website.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include frequently having:

  • a swollen tummy or feeling bloated
  • pain or tenderness in your tummy or the area between the hips (pelvis)
  • no appetite or feeling full quickly after eating
  • an urgent need to pee or needing to pee more often

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • indigestion
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • back pain
  • feeling tired all the time
  • losing weight without trying
  • bleeding from the vagina after the menopause

If something doesn’t feel right, or it’s been going on for a while, let your GP know. Finding cancer early saves lives. Visit the NHS website for more information.


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