22 March 2017
Q: My friend’s mum died of ovarian cancer because she was diagnosed too late. I have read about a blood test which can detect this disease. Can you tell me about it? Where can I get the test done?
A: I am very sorry to hear about your friend’s mum. Ovarian cancer is the sixth commonest cancer in women. The ovary is deep inside the abdomen and so can develop cancer with very few symptoms until it is too late. The most common early symptoms include one or more of the following:
- constant pain or a feeling of pressure in the pelvic area (lower part of the tummy or abdomen)
- persistent bloating in the abdomen
- there may also be an actual increase in size of your abdomen
- difficulty eating/feeling full quickly.
Other symptoms that may develop include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- back pain
- pain in the lower abdomen during sex
- passing urine frequently
- change in bowel habit (constipation or diarrhoea).
The blood test for ovarian cancer is called CA125, which is a protein that is found in blood and can be taken from a simple blood test from your arm. In most healthy women the level of CA125 is usually less than 35. The level of CA125 in the blood can rise for many reasons which include endometriosis, menstruation, ovarian cysts, and sometimes, ovarian cancer.
A CA125 blood test result above 35 is not in itself a diagnosis of ovarian cancer - if the level of CA125 in your blood is 35 or higher, your GP should arrange for you to have an ultrasound scan of your tummy and pelvis. The ultrasound scans will create pictures of your ovaries so that they can be checked for anything unusual, and will help your GP gather more information.
During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month we are offering a private GP appointment and a CA125 blood test for £180.
The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.