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March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Written by Helen Prentice

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Posted on March 20 2019

This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which is a good opportunity to come together to open up discussion about what is, unfortunately, the sixth most common cancer among women. Many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer can mimic less serious conditions, such as the menopause. But ovarian cancer can be prevented.

We’ve teamed up with Ovarian Cancer Action, a UK charity dedicated to funding research and screening programmes, to make sure everyone has access to the right information when it comes to knowing the signs.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

One of the main issues when it comes to diagnosis is that less than a third of women in the UK are confident they know the symptoms. So, here are five important facts about ovarian cancer that we believe every woman should know:

1. Your cervical screening test will not detect ovarian cancer

1 in 4 women believes cervical screening detects ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, there is currently no screening tool for ovarian cancer, although charity Ovarian Cancer Action are trying to change that. The earlier ovarian cancer is detected, the better chance a woman has of survival, so the charity is funding important work to develop the world’s first ovarian cancer screening tool.

2. Ovarian cancer is NOT a silent killer

Ovarian cancer used to be known as the ‘silent killer’. It took years of campaigning for the Government to finally acknowledge that the disease had symptoms. You can find out more about them here and if you are experiencing any of them, it’s worth booking an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.

3. The symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t always easy to recognise
Many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are very similar to common and less-serious conditions, such as the menopause, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which makes it hard to recognise. The four most common symptoms are:

  • Persistent pain in your stomach or pelvic area
  • Persistent bloating or swollen tummy
  • Finding it difficult to eat or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to wee more often than usual

But there are other symptoms, that may include:

  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • Persistent indigestion or nausea
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal bleeding (particularly after the menopause)
  • A change in bowel habits (going to the toilet more often or less frequently)
  • Unexplained weight loss

One of the main challenges is spotting ovarian cancer symptoms as early as possible. Here is a chart to show you some of the differences between the most common symptoms and IBS:

IBS

Ovarian cancer

IBS usually develops for the first time in patients in their 20s and 30s

If you develop IBS symptoms for the first time in your 50s or later, it is unlikely to be IBS

IBS symptoms come and go and are related to eating particular foods and stress

Ovarian cancer symptoms are persistent and are not affected by your diet or stress


4. Early diagnosis is life-saving

A woman diagnosed as early as possible at stage 1 has a 90% chance of surviving five or more years. This plummets to 4% when she’s diagnosed at the most advanced stage. Because the symptoms are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, many women are diagnosed very late, once the cancer has spread and so treatment options are more limited.

5. Your family history is important
If two or more relatives on the same side of the family have had ovarian and/or breast cancer, do tell your GP. Carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation dramatically increases your cancer risk but there are ways of managing this. To explore your family risk, visit Ovarian Cancer Action’s Hereditary Risk Tool. And for more information, visit www.ovarian.org.uk.

We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to talk about our bodies, especially if we’re worried about a sudden change or difference in how we feel. If you are in any way concerned about or anxious about any symptoms you are experiencing, please do go and speak to your GP or health practitioner to set your mind at rest.

This blog has been written in association with:
Ovarian Cancer Action and Menopause
Ovarian Cancer Action: Funding research to save women’s lives.


Find our more about Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month at the following organisations:

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Eve Appeal
Ovacome
Target Ovarian Cancer
The NHS

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