target ovarian pic 29.06.15Having watched her mother and close friend both lose their lives to ovarian cancer, business woman Sarah Carlick decided to take the bull by the horns and get herself tested for an abnormal gene which, if positive, could mean a greater risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.

Sure enough, results day came and Sarah, now in her 40s, had tested positive for the BRCA1 gene which, along with the BRCA2 gene, is prevalent in Ashkenazi women particularly of her age.

Taking inspiration from her mother who had been a very proactive volunteer co-ordinator for a Jewish charity in Manchester, Sarah decided to give what’s still considered a less talked about disease a much needed voice.

Used to prompting discussion over what many of us may consider difficult topics, through her own business the Athena Programme which she set up to encourage safeguarding, Sarah is now spending part of her busy schedule striving to highlight awareness and encourage others to investigate their own symptoms should they have any doubts or worries that they may be at risk of developing cancer.

Now due to undergo preventative surgery later this year herself, Sarah’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Only this week she attended a Target Ovarian Cancer campaign launch at the Houses of Parliament following on from the news that she had been made an ambassador for the cancer charity.

Perfect for the role, with the right attitude and determination to face the disease head on, Sarah has just appeared on Channel 5’s prime time news programme after word spread that Bury’s dynamic mum of one has continued with the group her mum started called the Tick-Tock committee, created to raise funds and awareness of ovarian cancer.

Sarah is delighted that her efforts haven’t been overlooked but she knows that she is only at the starting line:

“I find it incredible that so few people are aware of just how high the chances of developing what could be a fatal illness are if left undetected.

“But it’s not just individuals who need educating. It’s GPs and people for whom better awareness of symptoms could save the life of their patients. There is no screening or testing for it, but people are entitled to a genetic test for its presence – who knows that though? Very few and this has to change.

“We have so many women who should be on the billboards of buses and buildings around us but because it is not as prevalent in some communities, compared to others, it’s not given the same level of exposure. This has to change and I will make sure it does change and these women do get heard.”

Sarah is keen to carry on the work of her mother, the late Ros Carlick, and Maralyn Cohen, who died this year of ovarian cancer, who have left a legacy of raising awareness and research in the hope that more deaths can be prevented.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly in its early stages.

A lot of the time this is because they are often the same as symptoms of other less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or premenstrual syndrome.

However, three main symptoms are more frequent in women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

They are:

  • Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s your tummy and below)
  • Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual

Sarah’s final word on the matter is simple:  “Don’t delay, visit your doctor and ask for a test if there is family history or you are worried about any of the symptoms. No one should feel that they can’t speak up. It could be a matter of life and death.”