A woman from Peterborough with incurable ovarian cancer and her husband are part of a celebrity awareness campaign which includes actors, singers and broadcasters.
Rebecca Readshaw (36) has been undergoing chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with the disease five years ago, more than 12 months after she had first seen a GP about the problem.
Her husband Ming Yeung, a professional cameraman and editor for Getty Images, has now been taking photos of a number of celebrities for charity Ovacome’s ‘Have you been tealed?’ awareness campaign.
Teal is the colour associated with ovarian cancer.
BBC camera operator Rebecca, who has stage 4 incurable ovarian cancer, now lives in Chiswick, but she grew up in Dogsthorpe - attending Dogsthorpe Primary and Deacon’s School - and is always visiting her family who still live here.
She said: “I think that I took longer to diagnose because I was in my early 30s, so much younger than the typical woman who gets ovarian cancer, when doctors are not really thinking of ovarian cancer as a possibility. But women regardless of their age need to be aware of the symptoms of this disease.
“If women have persistent symptoms I urge them to see their GP. Chances are it won’t be anything serious, but it is worth getting checked out.”
Rebecca’s condition can be treated but not cured. She added: “It’s stressful. I’ve got a bit of anxiety which I never used to have before.”
The celebrities involved in the campaign are actors and actresses Jenny Agutter, Nigel Havers, Jane Asher and Terri Dwyer, comedian Omid Djalili, TV and radio presenter Sara Cox, MPs Caroline Lucas and David Lammy, singers Hollie Cook and Kele Le Roc and radio presenter and former MP John Nicolson.
The idea is that people seeing the photography of the celebrities will question whether they have been tealed, which is shorthand for knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Ming wanted to shoot the high level media campaign to help spread awareness among men as well as women after Rebecca’s stomach pain pre-diagnosis was repeatedly dismissed by her GP as a parasitic infection from her six month stint in India.
“I can’t help thinking that if Rebecca had been seen by a woman GP her ovarian cancer may have been picked up earlier,” said Ming. “As it happens it was stage 3 when it was finally diagnosed, over a year after her first visit to the GP.
“Hopefully, this campaign will help make everyone aware - including men - of what to look out for and not to dismiss the symptoms even in a young woman when it is much more likely to be something less serious.”
In recent research Ovacome found that despite bloating being the main sign of ovarian cancer, with almost nine in 10 women diagnosed having suffered from it, in only 20 per cent of cases was it the symptom which took them to their GP.
They were far more likely to seek medical help when they have abdominal pain (47 per cent), or a change in urination (25 per cent): the most common symptoms to take a woman with ovarian cancer in the first instance to her doctor.
Ovacome hopes its campaign will spread awareness of its BEAT acronym highlighting the main signs of ovarian cancer: B is for bloating that is persistent and does not come and go; E is for eating less and feeling fuller quicker; A is for abdominal and pelvic pain felt most days and T is for toilet changes, both urination and bowel.
David Lammy said he wanted to support the campaign after losing his mother to the disease. “This is a cause very close to my heart and I want to help raise awareness of this disease and its symptoms,” he said.
“Men should be just as vigilant as women when it comes to ovarian cancer, and by knowing the signs men can make a huge difference.”
Ovacome’s chief executive Victoria Clare said: “We know that women recognise the symptoms of bloating but often dismiss it as being something less sinister. It is understandable that they often only seek advice because of less easy to ignore pain, but this mindset needs to change.”