Of women diagnosed early, 90% survive five years or more. Of women diagnosed late, only 10% survive five years or more. These figures are shocking and that’s why we want to help you spot the signs early.
Every year in the UK there are 7000 diagnosed cases of ovarian cancer and 4,300 deaths from the disease. What is most worrying is that England has the lowest survival rates of any other European country and if our survival rates matched the best in Europe, 500 lives would be saved every year.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age, particularly in women who have gone through menopause. Family history can also increase the risk especially if two or more close family members have had ovarian or breast cancer. In around 1 in 10 cases, a family link can be identified. People with diabetes also have an increased risk, which is why a healthy diet and regular exercise is important.
Research suggests that having children, breastfeeding and taking the oral contraceptive pill for a number of years reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and this is because all three of these delay ovulation when the ovaries are exposed to oestrogen-rich fluid.
· Persistent bloating (not on and off)
· Feeling full all the time
· Pelvic or abdominal pain
· Frequent urination
Other symptoms may include extreme fatigue and weight loss.
Unfortunately, may people and doctors as well, confuse these with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) but it’s important to remember that with IBS, these symptoms can come and go, whereas with ovarian cancer, they are persistent. IBS rarely develops in women over 50, so anybody over that age should see their GP.
Many people believe that ovarian cancer is a ‘silent killer’ but this is not true at all. Symptoms can be recognised early on but unfortunately many women do not go to the doctor early enough and many doctors misdiagnose the symptoms. It’s therefore vitally important to be aware of the changes in your body so you can seek help early and avoid a late diagnosis. Currently there is no national screening service for ovarian cancer, unlike cervical cancer, which means awareness is even more important.
Written by Ruth Tongue