From the Surrey Mirror 19 March 2015 edition.
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and once again, this campaign is encouraging people to recognise the symptoms of what is the fifth most common cancer among women.
Mr Matthew Long, consultant gynaecologist, with 30 years’ experience in both the NHS and private practice, says he has noticed that his patients are more aware of the symptoms, thanks to the national campaign, yet still more than half of all ovarian cancer cases are discovered late.
"Unlike breast cancer and cervical cancer, there is no reliable, accurate screening test for ovarian cancer, so being aware of the symptoms is key to getting an early diagnosis and treatment," he said.
The main symptoms to look out for are:
- bloating in the tummy
- pain in the abdomen or pelvic area
- reduced appetite or feeling full easily
- lower back pain
"However," added Mr Long. "The difficulty for women is these symptoms are non-specific. That is, they may indicate early signs of ovarian cancer or more likely, they could be linked to other causes such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or fibroids."
Symptoms also have to be persistent, rather than coming and going, so Mr Long urges women to keep a diary of their symptoms if they have concerns.
"If the diary is showing that these symptoms are persistent for two to three weeks, I recommend a visit to the doctor."
An ultrasound scan in hospital, and a blood test, will be carried out to diagnose the cause, but for many women, who have gone to their GP having recognised the symptoms, these tests will give them reassurance that they have not got ovarian cancer.
"And for those whose diagnosis is positive, the fact it has been spotted early will increase their chances of being cured," said Mr Long.
For more information on ovarian cancer please visit the awareness month website.