Historically, ovarian cancer was known as a ‘Silent Killer’ but we now know this to be untrue. (In fact there are several myths surrounding the disease.) These are the signs to look out for:
- Persistent stomach pain
- Persistent bloating
- Finding it difficult to eat or feeling full quickly
- Needing to wee more often
Early detection of ovarian cancer is lifesaving. Women diagnosed at stage 1 have a 90% survival rate, compared to 19% at stage 3. The problem is, too many women are diagnosed at late stages.
One of the challenges of spotting ovarian cancer symptoms is that they are often mistaken for less serious conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Other symptoms women may notice include:
- Back pain
- Changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
- Feeling tired all the time
Although we may all experience some of these symptoms from time to time, the key is that they appear suddenly, are unusual for you and they are persistent.
IBS or 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|
If you have persistent stomach pain, bloating, find it difficult to eat or feel full quickly it's important to talk to your GP as soon as possible.
Keeping a symptoms diary by using our app or downloading a paper version can help women to track signs of ovarian cancer and make GP consultations more effective.
Diagnosing ovarian cancer
Cervical screening does not detect ovarian cancer. There is currently no national screening programme.
Doctors can arrange a number of tests to rule out ovarian cancer including:
- Physical examination
- CA125 blood test
- Pelvic ultrasound scan
There is no screening because there is no definitive test. In order to make this a reality, much more research is needed. The sad fact is that there’s just not enough investment in ovarian cancer research, whether to tackle prevention, screening or treatment.
The story on BRCA
All women in the UK have a one in 54 chance of developing ovarian cancer, but for women with the hereditary BRCA1/2 gene mutations, this risk increases to 1 in 2.
Knowing whether you carry the BRCA1/2 gene mutation gives women power:
- The power to take action before ovarian cancer develops
- The power to adapt treatment for women who have already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer
- The power to pass this vital information on to their families, who may choose to take preventative action too.
We need your help to make women aware of their rights to be offered BRCA testing at the point of diagnosis. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for testing to be offered at this crucial stage aren’t being consistently delivered. Your stories can help to sensitively explore the implications of carrying a BRCA1/2 gene mutation and shine a spotlight on crucial information, like the fact that men can carry the BRCA1/2 gene mutation too.
Angelina Jolie helped to raise the profile on BRCA when she had an oophorectomy to reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer in May 2015.
Our BRCA risk tool helps women to assess whether they have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer due to BRCA1/2 gene mutations or other hereditary circumstances.
Some stats and figures
- It is the deadliest gynaecological cancer and the sixth most common cancer among women
- There are 7380 new diagnoses each year
- The UK has one of the lowest survival rates in Western Europe, with a woman dying from ovarian cancer every two hours
- That amounts to almost 4,300 deaths each year