September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, so we've spoken to Cancer Research to hear more about this deadly and difficult to spot disease.
We’ve spoken to Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head cancer information nurse, for a comprehensive account of the symptoms you need to watch out for.
‘Ovarian cancer symptoms are not necessarily easy to spot, as they can be vague,’ he says. ‘And they can nearly all be related to other much less serious conditions, particularly when we’re talking about the symptoms for less-advanced ovarian cancer.
‘There’s a higher chance that the symptoms are caused by cancer if they are new, quite severe, and don’t come and go. If you have any of the symptoms below and they happen on most days for three weeks or more, go to your GP and get a check up, particularly if you are over 50 or have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
• persistent pain in the tummy or lower part of the tummy
• increased tummy size or bloating
• feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
• needing to pass urine urgently and/or more often than usual.
‘Lots of women experience symptoms similar to these and they are usually nothing serious. But you should see your doctor if you regularly have any of these symptoms, which are not normal for you, and if they happen on most days for three or more weeks.’
• irregular bleeding or bleeding after the menopause
• extreme tiredness or back pain.
If you have any of these symptoms, if they keep occurring, and they are new for you, it’s important to see your doctor. If you’ve already been to your doctor and the symptoms have got worse or have not gone away, it’s best to return and get it checked.
Why is early detection important?
‘Survival from ovarian cancer has almost doubled over the last 30 years. Finding cancer at an early stage increases the chance of it being treated successfully. More than nine in 10 women survive ovarian cancer for at least five years if it is detected at the earliest stage. But more than half of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at the later stages.
‘Getting to know your body, and recognising the symptoms to look out for, means you’re more likely to spot unusual changes that could indicate ovarian cancer. Early diagnosis can save lives.’
For more information and to speak to a Cancer Research UK’s cancer information nurses call 0808 800 4040 or visit the website.