Word on Health

Word On Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Our grateful thanks to Target Ovarian Cancer for their contribution to our radio report and the support information below.  You can hear our radio report again at the bottom of this page.   

Ovarian cancer.  Across the UK 1 in 50 women will receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer at some point in their life, equivalent to 7400 per year, At present there are around 41,000 women across the UK living with ovarian cancer. It mainly affects women over the age of 50 but 1 in 10 cases occur in the under 45’s. 

There isn’t just one ovarian cancer; there are many different types that occur at different stages of life. Researchers have identified more than 30 types. 

If diagnosed and treated early 9 out of 10 women will survive – sadly, only an estimated 20 percent of ovarian cancer is diagnosed early enough for treatment to prevent the spread of the disease.  New treatments developed over the past 10-15 years offer new hope for the ovarian cancer community – but early diagnosis is still key. 

Studies have shown that awareness of the ovarian cancer is low, a pre pandemic study suggested

  • Only 1 in 6 (16%) of women are aware of ovarian cancer, 
  • 2/3 of women (66%) questioned of a representative sample of the UK were not able to cite any symptoms of ovarian cancer or knew what the symptoms were.
  • almost two thirds of women questioned did not not know or were able to mention any risk factors associated with ovarian cancer. 
  • 45% of women mistakenly believed that a smear test will tell them whether or not they have Ovarian cancer.
  • Over 1/3 (34%) wrongly believed that the more sexual partners a woman has, the more at risk she is of developing ovarian cancer. 

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. (For more detailed information help and support click here to visit Target 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.

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


  • Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (that's your tummy and below)
  • Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)

Occasionally there can be other symptoms:

  • Changes in bowel habit (eg diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Any bleeding after the menopause should always be investigated by a GP

Symptoms will be:

  • Frequent – they usually happen more than 12 times a month
  • Persistent – they don't go away
  • New – they're not normal for you  

Worried about your symptoms?

If you regularly experience any one or more of these symptoms, which aren't normal for you, it's important that you book an appointment with your GP. It's unlikely that your symptoms are caused by a serious problem, but it's important to get checked out. Target Ovarian Cancer provide top tips on speaking to your GP click here to access.

Ovarian cysts in pre-menopausal women can produce symptoms similar to those for ovarian cancer but they aren't known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have symptoms similar to ovarian cancer but if your symptoms don't clear up, go back to your GP or seek a second opinion, even if you've had tests. 

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.