what to look out for
Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer affecting woman but the symptoms can be very vague, especially in the early stages. So it’s important to know what they are.
Make an appointment to see your GP and get checked as soon as possible if you notice any of the following.
- You feel constantly bloated.
- Your tummy is swollen.
- You feel full very quickly when you eat - or don’t have much appetite at all.
- You have pain in your tummy or pelvis that won’t go away.
- You need to wee more urgently or more often than usual.
- You have bleeding after you’ve been through the menopause.
Lots of other conditions could cause these symptoms so while they’re probably nothing to worry about, you should see your GP. Whatever it is, the earlier it’s found, the easier it will be to treat.
A specialists view
Unlike breast, bowel and cervical cancer there is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer. This is partly due to the uncertainty of how ovarian cancer begins. There is a lot of evidence to suggest it may start out in the Fallopian tube and cells from this are shed into nearby parts of the body. This is why many cases of ovarian cancer do not show symptoms until the disease has spread to the bowel and other organs. Nevertheless, the earlier the diagnosis can be made the earlier treatment can begin, and the better the outcome. If you notice swelling in your tummy, an increase in the frequency of needing to pee , or you’re going off your food, ask your GP to consider a blood test called a CA125, which is usually raised in women with ovarian cancer. Your GP may also wish to arrange an ultrasound scan to look at the ovaries. Whilst having these symptoms does not mean you have cancer, it is better to get them checked out than ignoring them.
Dr Scott Fegan, consultant gynaecological oncologist
Getting checked - what’s involved
Some people put off seeing their doctor because they think they might be wasting their time. But your doctor will never think that. If you’ve noticed any symptoms and you’re at all worried about them they’ll want to know.
And it’s always best to get checked as early as possible.
Your doctor will listen carefully to what you’ve noticed and ask some questions about your symptoms. Depending on what you tell them they may be able to reassure you straight away or they may want to do some more checks. They might:
- Arrange a blood test, called a CA125 test, that can detect early signs of ovarian cancer.
- Examine you internally to see if your womb and ovaries feel normal.
- Refer you to hospital for tests or to see a specialist.
If you’d feel more comfortable with a female nurse or GP, be sure to mention this when you make your appointment.
- 1 in 59 women in Scotland will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
- 66% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 60 and over, 90% are over 45.
- Between 5 to 15% of ovarian cancers* are caused by an inherited gene.
- If your mother or sister had ovarian cancer you’re around 3 times more at risk.
Do you know the common signs and symptoms to look out for?