Women wait before seeking medical advice because they do not prioritize their own health over the health of their family. PICTURE: Supplied

Women wait before seeking medical advice because they do not prioritize their own health over the health of their family. 

Doctors have long warned that men are prone to avoid going to the GP because they would rather ignore health problems. But women also delay seeking advice, putting their health at risk, a new poll by the Ovarian Cancer Action charity has found.

The survey suggests that women will, on average, take 15 days to seek professional advice for a health complaint. By comparison, it would take them just five days to act on the health of their children, six for a partner and eight for their parents.

Women even put the health needs of their pets before their own, taking just seven days to take animals to the vet. The survey of 1,000 British women also revealed a worrying lack of awareness of ovarian cancer, which affects around 7,000 women a year. Some 90 per cent of respondents did not know all the symptoms, while 32 per cent could not name any at all.

While women take immediate action on symptoms of breast cancer, with 68 per cent acting in less than a week if they found a lump in their breast. But less than a quarter would do the same if experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer – and 39 per cent did not even know the role of the ovaries. Katherine Taylor, chief executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: ‘As women, we often put the needs of those important to us before our own. But in order to look after others, we have to look after ourselves first.

‘We need to know and understand the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer so we can seek help and get treatment as soon as possible.’ Common symptoms include bloating, stomach pain, feeling full quickly and needing to go to the toilet very frequently, extreme fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

Angela Walker, 60, suffered from bloating and stomach pain for months before she went to her GP. When her doctor misdiagnosed the problem as a wheat intolerance, it took months of increasing pain before she decided to go back and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. But even then, she was more worried about her three children than her own health.

Mrs Walker, who ran her own catering business before she retired, said: ‘I remember going into hospital and worrying about who was looking after the children. If it had been one of them, I would have been camped on the GP’s doorstep demanding answers, but instead I was thinking, “I don’t want to cause a scene, I don’t want to cause a fuss”.’

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