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Ovarian cancer – what every woman needs to know NOW!


March 2016 is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and nothing could be more important in the fight to reduce fatalities from this still largely misunderstood disease than to make more women aware of what symptoms to look out for so they can take action while they still have time on their side.


In fact, it is estimated that survival rates amongst women diagnosed at the earliest stage of the disease could be as high as 90% compared to the current UK rate of just 34%.

So what are the symptoms?

The most common signs that might indicate the early development of ovarian cancer are:

  • persistent abdominal pain in your tummy and below in your pelvic region
  • feeling bloated all the time
  • back pain
  • loss of appetite accompanied by difficulty in eating
  • needing to pee more often and more urgently
  • unexplained gains or losses in weight
  • changes in your bowel habits, whether diarrhoea or constipation
  • pain during sex
  • feeling tired all the time

If you start experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to remember that these may be one-off events linked to another relatively harmless condition.  However, genuine warning signs of ovarian cancer can be identified by their frequency if they happen more than 12 times a month, their persistence in not going away and the simple fact that these are not normal to you if you’ve never experienced them before on a regular basis.

Bearing in mind the disturbing statistic that UK women experiencing symptoms that meet all these criteria still tend to wait three months or more before making an appointment with their GP, it is essential that you act quickly so you can be correctly diagnosed and treated quickly – it could, quite frankly, save your life.

Don’t panic – it could be something else!

Many of the symptoms described above can be attributed to other, less serious conditions – the most common being irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ovarian cysts and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

It is not unknown for GPs to mistake the early signs of ovarian cancer for IBS as the symptoms are very similar.  Triggered by stress or diet, IBS would most commonly develop when you are in your 20s or 30s.  So if you begin to experience ovarian cancer like symptoms for the first time in your 50s or over, it is unlikely to be IBS.

Ovarian cysts develop in the ovary as part of a woman’s normal menstrual cycle.  These are basically harmless, but can grow large enough to cause symptoms similar to ovarian cancer.  However, these cysts can be easily identified during the same tests you would have to confirm the presence of cancer (or, hopefully, not).

PCOS describes an imbalance in a woman’s hormone levels that prevents eggs being released each month during menstruation, resulting in infrequent ovulation.  This benign condition can be identified by an ultrasound scan and, although it can be treated rather than entirely cured, women can be reassured that there is no evidence to suggest that PCOS could develop into ovarian cancer.

As this article has made clear, early diagnosis is vital if you are at all worried about showing symptoms of ovarian cancer.  Book an immediate appointment with our Gynae Clinic to be tested for ovarian cancer including ultrasound scanning.

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