Brinkmann Gynaecology

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in women in the UK. 6,800 new cases are diagnosed each year but the average GP may only see one case of ovarian cancer every 5 years.

A Cancer Research UK study reveals that 40% of people may delay getting symptoms checked out because they are worried about the outcome.  Late diagnosis is a problem for all cancers, but particularly for ovarian cancer where we know a third of women are diagnosed in A&E departments. Three quarters of UK women only learn they have ovarian cancer once it has spread and is so much harder to treat. This is because ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose with largely nonspecific abdominal symptoms.

Yet early diagnosis of cancer makes a successful outcome significantly more likely and, when diagnosed early, the outcomes for women with ovarian cancer can be good. Promising new treatment options are becoming available to women with ovarian cancer, including Avastin®, which offers significant benefit in addition to surgery and other chemotherapy treatments.

Historically ovarian cancer has been known as the silent killer but recent studies have shown that the majority of women, even those in the early stages of the disease, do have symptoms prior to diagnosis with a median duration of 12 months.

Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose as presentation is often vague with non-specific abdominal symptoms. However, increasing evidence shows that women with ovarian cancer do encounter specific symptoms more frequently, severely and persistently than those without the disease.

Any of the following symptoms, if they occur on most days, can be suggestive of ovarian cancer:

  • Persistent pelvic or stomach pain with increased stomach size
  • Persistent and continuous bloating
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly

Women with ovarian cancer are often first referred to gastroenterologists resulting in a delay in diagnosis. If a woman over 50 years of age presents with new onset IBS-like symptoms, this should be a strong cause for concern for possible serious disease, including ovarian cancer. The risk of sporadic ovarian cancer increases with age and after the menopause.

Although less common than other cancers, ovarian cancer is not silent and early diagnosis may save lives.

January 2012 Sussex Life Magazine January 2012 Sussex Life Magazine (611 KB)