Cork mother who lost daughter to ovarian cancer urges women to ‘know your body’

Emer Casey

Ovarian cancer is the disease that whispers, so people should listen carefully, advises Juliette Casey whose daughter, Emer, died ten years ago from the disease.

The young Corkwoman’s family founded the Emer Casey Foundation in 2006 to promote awareness of the disease as the symptoms can often be missed.

The foundation, at the weekend, presented two mobile ultrasound scanners to St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

They will be used by the hospital’s outpatient gynaecology department to assist in the early detection of ovarian and uterine cancer in women.

Ovarian cancer is the most fatal gynaecological cancers and early diagnosis is crucial. However, symptoms of the disease are not specific.

“It it is said that it is the disease that whispers so you should listen carefully. Know your body and what is normal for you,” said Juliette.

GynaeCancerCare at St James’s saw 346 women with new gynaecological cancers last year — there were 112 endometrial cancers and 110 ovarian cancers.

New guidelines have been launched by the national cancer control programme to increase doctors’ awareness of ovarian cancer and to encourage the earliest referral for ultrasound scans at general hospitals throughout the country.

St James’s was part of the successful pilot programme to introduce the new guidelines and the national rollout will see more women presenting with earlier stage disease.

Emer was just 28 when she died in 2006. Juliette said she often wondered how her life would have turned out if her daughter had been given a chance.

“Would she be in Australia, like most people travelling or would she be in Ireland, married with a family? We can only wonder and imagine,” said Juliette.

Emer, born on June 6, 1978, was the youngest of five girls. She studied law and French at University College Cork and, on completing her degree, was offered a traineeship and then a full-time position at Matheson.

Her vibrant and very full life was cut short in on June 10, 2006, four days after her 28th birthday. Just three months previously, she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Sadly, most women like Emer present with advanced stage disease and 70% die within five years. Ireland has one of the highest mortalities in Europe from ovarian cancer.

The Emer Casey Foundation has raised €900,000 to date with the help of Emer’s family, friends and neighbours from Youghal, Co Cork and also with the help of her employers Matheson.

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