Often referred to as the silent killer, ovarian cancer presents with symptoms that can easily be confused with other health problems.
The key to diagnosis is “Persistent, Frequent and New Symptoms”.
7000 women are diagnosed every year in the UK with ovarian cancer but the average GP may see one case of ovarian cancer every five years. Most tumours on the ovaries are not cancerous, but benign. They are not life threatening and can occur for a number of reasons. Only around 1 in 5 ovarian masses found in women still having their periods (menstruating) are cancerous. That figure rises in post menopausal women - those who have gone through the 'change' some time ago. For women in this group it is likely that one in every two tumours will be malignant (cancerous).
Symptoms awareness currently provides the best safety net for women and early diagnosis often leads to the best outcomes. Recent studies show that the majority of women with ovarian cancer, even those with early stage disease, do have symptoms prior to diagnosis. There is increasing evidence that symptoms may be present for a median of 12 months.
Whilst the presentation may be vague, non-specific symptoms, there is accumulating evidence that women with ovarian cancer experience symptoms that are persistent, frequent and new to them.
What are the symptoms?:
Stomach and, or pelvic pain
Persistent bloating (no relief from the bloating feeling)
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
Other symptoms may include:
Excessive tiredness and back pain
Urgency to pass urine
Change in bowel habits
Remember ovarian cancer primary affects women over the age of 40, but it is important that women of all ages are aware of the disease and its symptoms. The symptoms occur for many reasons and your healthcare professional is unlikely to want to send you for unnecessary tests. But if the symptoms continue, occur on most days or started for no apparent reason, make sure ovarian cancer is considered.
The sooner ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Survival can be 70% for women diagnosed with early stage ovarian cancer. That means that seven out of ten women will survive for five or more years.
If you are having symptoms more than 12 times a month your Healthcare Professional should do a CA125 blood test.