Ovarian Cancer is most common in women over 50 years old and post-menopausal women. But all women of any age can suffer from it – especially if you have a family history of the disease.
Sadly, nearly 2 / 3 of women diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer will have late stage disease at the point of diagnosis. This is too late. This means that treatment options are limited and the disease is much worse than if it had been diagnosed early.
It is a frightening prospect for women. But this can change.
Why is diagnosis so late?
Ovarian Cancer can be a difficult disease for a GP to recognise.
Symptoms include bloating and abdominal pelvic pain. They can also include feeling full and difficulty eating. This can often lead to a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other bowel problem, urinary tract infections or even menopausal symptoms. However, firstly, national clinical guidelines advise that women over 50 rarely present with IBS for the first time, so this is unlikely. Secondly, if treatment doesn’t work, that should start alarm bells ringing that there could be another cause.
Severe bloating leading to a distended abdomen is a high-risk symptom, which should warrant rapid investigation.
But I always suffer from bloating….
This is also a problem. What a Doctor means by ‘bloating’ and what the average person means by bloating can be 2 very different things. We all use the term ‘bloating’ for lots of things, including when we’ve eaten too much.
But persistent distention is different – it is a key indication of Ovarian Cancer and must be investigated. If you are suffering with this – make sure you tell your GP exactly what this is and that you know it is not normal for you. Make sure your GP understands you clearly. Your GP wants to understand what is going on, so don’t be afraid to be very honest and open.
I went to my GP, but they couldn’t do anything so I just struggled on and lived with it….
If you are noticing any symptoms from the below list and you know they are not normal for you, go back to your GP. The key thing is to know your body. If you think it isn’t right, tell your GP. You can always ask for a second opinion and you can also ask for a referral to a Gynaecologist.
If you feel your GP isn’t listening, keep a symptoms diary and then take it to them with your concerns. Your GP wants to help you and will be glad of the information you provide.
• Symptoms are frequent (usually occurring more than 12 times a month or more) and persistent, and include:
• Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
• Difficulty eating or feeling full
• Pelvic or abdominal pain
• Needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual
• other symptoms such as change in bowel habits, extreme fatigue, or unexplained weight loss.
• Any post-menopausal bleeding requires urgent investigation
The key thing is to Know Your Body. Know what is normal and is not normal for you. Tell your GP what is wrong and tell them your worries – they want to know. The more you tell them, the more they can help. An early diagnosis may be life saving.
Target Ovarian Cancer have a brilliant website full of information, plus top tips to tell your GP: http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/sites/default/files/Ovarian%20cancer%20information/Target%20Ovarian%20Cancer%2010%20top%20tips%20women%20-%20English.pdf
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