Survivors Teaching Students
Women with ovarian cancer have often waited weeks or months for their symptoms to be correctly diagnosed. Many go through tests for gastric and abdominal conditions and are told they have irritable bowel syndrome, a urinary tract infection, incontinence, constipation, sciatica and menopause problems before further investigations reveal the true diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
At Ovacome we know this through our support line services and the many conversations we have with our members and the public. In 2014 a members’ survey underlined the need for better symptom awareness among all clinical professionals. Ovacome responded by launching a practical and effective programme to use ovarian cancer experts – women with the disease – to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms and risk factors among the clinicians of the future; medical students, nursing students and other trainee health professionals.
The Survivors Teaching Students programme uses the voices and experiences of women with ovarian cancer to help students learn and retain knowledge about the signs and symptoms, risk factors and treatment protocols for the disease.
STS was developed and is owned by US charities, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Each STS session starts with a short questionnaire to measure the students’ knowledge level and ends with another to see how much they have learned. So we know it works.
Ovacome is currently working with 11 universities that run medical or nursing schools and we have volunteers across England ready to deliver the programme. They work in teams of three and each presents their experiences and answers questions in a session that lasts one hour. We have reached more than 500 students.
Our work has been supported by the family of Ovacome member Dr Lisa Jayne Clark who died of ovarian cancer aged 40. Lisa was a consultant in emergency medicine, but she had not recognised her own ovarian cancer symptoms. Her family and friends have donated to the programme and raised funds for STS. We are especially grateful to Richard Stock and Joanne Asprey.
STS sessions are free and well received by students who have told us:
“It has given me more insight into the signs and symptoms and risk factors.”
“I will remember these women and what they have told me when I see patients like them .”
“I will always suspect ovarian cancer with raised CA125.”
“I know now to think of ovarian cancer when post-menopausal women present with vague abdominal and other symptoms.”
Now we want to increase our reach across the UK and work with medical and nursing schools across the country. Ovacome has also been recognised as the European hub for the programme, encouraging charities in other countries to run the programme.
Could you be an STS volunteer presenter? If you are interested in taking part call Ovacome volunteer manager Ruth Grigg on 020 7299 6653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.