Word on Health

Word On Ovarian Cancer

Our thanks to Ovarian Cancer Action. You can find out more about Ovarian Cancer visit www.ovarian.org.uk

12 women in the UK die of ovarian cancer, every day. It is the fourth most common cancer in women. UK survival rates are amongst the lowest in the Western World and have changed little in the last twenty years. Most women (75%) are not diagnosed until the cancer has already spread.  Research shows that almost all women diagnosed with early stage disease do experience symptoms, combating the myth that this is a ‘silent killer’.

Women with persistent, frequent, and sudden onset symptoms (see below), often abdominal in nature, should ask their GP if they have considered ovarian cancer. This should be the case if treatment for other conditions is not effective

Despite being the fourth most common cancer in women, the general public and women in particular are woefully ignorant of ovarian cancer and its associated symptoms.

Research has shown Only 1 in 6 (16%) of women are aware of ovarian cancer 2/3 of women (66%) are not able to cite any symptoms of ovarian cancer or say they do not know what the symptoms are and almost 2/3 (59%) of women say they do not know or are not able to mention any risk factors associated with ovarian cancer.

There is widespread confusion between ovarian and cervical cancer, with 45% of women mistakenly believing that a smear test will tell them whether or not they have ovarian cancer, and over 1/3 (34%) mistakenly believed that the more sexual partners a woman has, the more at risk she is of developing ovarian cancer. 

If found in the early stages though, up to 95% of women will survive for more than five years. Unfortunately most women in the UK are not diagnosed with ovarian cancer, until it has already spread, making successful treatment difficult, and survival rates much lower.  Screening tools are currently neither specific, nor accurate enough for widespread use, as they result in unacceptably high levels of surgery for the numbers of cancers they detect. 9 0% of ovarian cancers are not 'familial'. This means that most women will not have any family history of this cancer, so they may not be aware of symptoms and risk factors.

Awareness can save lives. Recent research has shown that almost all women do experience symptoms, particularly very frequent, persistent and sudden onset ones, even in the early stages of ovarian cancer.

Risk factors:  There are a number of factors which can affect your risk of getting ovarian cancer:  Family history: If you have 2 or more relatives from the same side of your family affected by ovarian, or ovarian and breast cancer, you risk may be increased.  Age: The majority of cases occur in women over the age of 40. However some types of ovarian cancer do appear in women from the age of 20 onwards. Childbirth: There is a slightly increased risk to women who have not had children, or breastfed.Weight: Being overweight may also increase risk. Other factors: As yet still unproven, there is research being undertaken to evaluate the use of talcum powder, and the role of inflammation in the development of ovarian cancer.

Diagnosis can be difficult because symptoms are often similar to those caused by more common, less serious conditions.

If you have any of the following symptoms you should not panic, but discuss with your doctor if they have considered ovarian cancer. In particular you should ask your doctor about ovarian cancer if you have one or more of the following symptoms for more than 12 days a month:

Feeling full persistently, Difficulty eating, Abdominal pain, Pelvic pain, Bloating, Increased abdominal size. Any other sudden onset, frequently recurring or numerous symptoms should also be reported to your doctor. They can include, Increased urinary urgency. Abnormal vaginal bleeding, Changes in bowel habit, Excessive fatigue, Indigestion or nausea


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