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March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

05 March 2018

Make some noise about ovarian cancer symptoms

Suffering in silence could be killing you!

That is the warning being given out as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month that will run throughout March.

It is the fourth most common cancer amongst women in the UK with more than 7,000 women diagnosed each year and 4,300 deaths annually* yet early detection can lead to successful treatment for many sufferers.

But because symptoms are often vague or non-specific or often mistaken for ‘tummy troubles’ or period pains, ovarian cancer is usually discovered in the late stages when successful treatment is much less effective, Mr Des Barton, a Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at Spire St Anthony’s Hospital in Sutton, said: “Far too many women are dismissing the symptoms for too long before going to see their GP. 

“Unfortunately there is not a specific symptom or symptoms and the symptoms could be subtle or mild. This can mean the GPs may sometimes suspect Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stomach or bladder problems as the cause and not investigate further or refer for tests.” 

Now Ovarian Cancer charities are urging women to be constantly on the lookout for possible symptoms – and to act on them sooner rather than later. The nature of ovarian cancer is, however,  that the symptoms described below may indicate more advanced stage disease rather than early stage disease.

There is also an increased awareness in primary care to investigate, or refer patients with these symptoms for investigations sooner. Patients with a personal or family history of breast cancer or a family history of ovarian cancer are at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

“When women are diagnosed in the early stages of ovarian cancer they have a 90% chance of surviving for more than five years but this reduces to even less than 40% when diagnosed in the later stages so it is important they know what symptoms to look for and that they make their GP aware of those symptoms as soon as possible.

“My advice to any woman having any of these symptoms is to go to their GP and discuss the matter thoroughly. Women must feel confident that when they visit their GP with any of the symptoms mentioned below they will be examined and referred with the possibility of ovarian cancer in mind.”

The four main symptoms to look out for are:

  • Persistent bloating or increased stomach (abdomen) size eg. clothes not fitting
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to urinate more frequently
  • Persistent stomach pain

 *Figures from Cancer Research UK 


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