This year the Annual Meeting was screened to our homes as it was virtual, and what an inspiring meeting it was, as we listened to recording of Jerusalem and saw some slides of previous meetings, Oh how we missed the 4,000 women singing Jerusalem.
Speakers were Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, who touched on a few concerns that we are all experiencing during this dreadful pandemic and lockdown restrictions. Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, outlined new legislation brought in to protect women in domestic violence situations, also a new trial in Croydon to make the streets safer for women to walk. Baroness Hale of Richmond outlined her career in Law and had just recently retired from the Supreme Court of Justice.
This year, one resolution, A call to increase awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer, was presented to the Annual meeting for debate, with voting taking place in the month after the meeting.
Resolution proposer, Cathy Heathcote from Kitchen Dancers WI, Hampshire Federation, outlined the reasons for the resolution stating would like the WI to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer among women and healthcare professionals, to help ensure that women receive early treatment where necessary. The scale of the problem Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women, mainly affecting those who have been through the menopause. According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 7,400 new ovarian cancer cases in the UK each year, and 4,100 deaths. The symptoms of ovarian cancer include: feeling constantly bloated; a swollen tummy; discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area; feeling full quickly when eating; and/or loss of appetite; and needing to pee more often than normal. The earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat and so public awareness and understanding of the symptoms is really important.
Cancer Research UK states that when ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, nine out of ten women will survive for five years or more. This compares to less than three in 20 women when diagnosed at the latest stage. However, because the early signs of ovarian cancer are similar to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), it is often not diagnosed until it has spread. More information can be found on MyWI, or speak to your WI Secretary.
Ruby Adler of Sotonettes WI, Hampshire Federation, seconded the proposed resolution.
John Butler, Cancer Surgeon and Consultant in Gynaecological Oncology at Royal Marden Hospital, then spoke about his work with ovarian and other cancers and the need for the resolution.
NFWI Trustee Toto James of Barnes WI, Surrey Federation, raised some points to consider, which were not her personal views, regarding the timing of this resolution and how useful would the WI campaigning resources be used on this very important issue. In 1999 the NFWI passed a resolution calling for further research into a test for ovarian cancer. This resolution would therefore offer an opportunity to build on the WI’s earlier work on this issue.
This resolution focusses on the need for greater awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which is recognised as vital for improving early diagnosis. WI members are well connected in their communities, and could use their existing networks to reach more people with the key messages on this issue. There are several organisations campaigning to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
How could the WI build on this and spread the word further?
Images courtesy of NFWI.