‘I thought how can I be bloated when I haven’t been able to eat anything’

For the launch of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in 2021, Della Ogunleye spoke at our Make Change Happen event. Here is a clip from the event where she shares her story of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and why she thinks it is so important for her to speak up about having ovarian cancer and raise awareness of its signs and symptoms.

Della is 59 and from south London, years after she had breast cancer, Della was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and has since found out that she has a BRCA gene alteration.

Alterations on the BRCA1 or 2 gene are known to increase your risk of ovarian cancer, as well as breast, prostate (for men) and pancreatic cancer. Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. They are known as tumour suppressor genes as they play a role in protecting us from cancer. They do this by helping to prevent the cells in our bodies from growing and dividing out of control. If there is a significant alteration in either of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, they may lose the ability to protect us from a cancer developing.

If you have been tested and told that you have a gene alteration that puts you at an increased risk of cancer, it may mean that you need to be more vigilant of symptoms. You can read more about ovarian cancer symptoms here. It could also mean that you may be able to access some forms of cancer prevention on the NHS, such as regular surveillance or risk-reduction surgery.

After Della had breast cancer, she was conscious of looking out for signs that her cancer had recurred, but wasn’t really looking out for signs of other types of cancer. When she started to have persistent bloating for a few months she thought it could be something she was eating. She had to go to the doctor three times before she was given a blood test, which found that her CA-125 (a marker that can show a potential ovarian cancer) was high.

She was referred to a specialist and diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She now raises awareness of breast and ovarian cancer and BRCA gene alterations.

If you would like more information on BRCA, genetic testing, or reducing your risk you can visit our page on inherited risks here.

You can also Ask Eve for free and confidential advice. Get in touch on nurse@eveappeal.org.uk or 0808 802 0019.