Ovarian cancer: The digestive signs to spot – ‘Awareness of key symptoms is still too low’

Janey Godley gives update on her Ovarian cancer

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Ovarian cancer, or cancer of the ovaries, is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, and eventually form a tumour. There are some digestive signs which mean you should go to a GP to discuss signs.

New data from Target Ovarian Cancer shows a lack of awareness over some symptoms.

In a survey of 1,000 UK women Target Ovarian Cancer found that “awareness of key symptoms is still too low”.

The new data comes as figures from the NHS show a shortfall in the number of people being diagnosed with cancer – “risking an epidemic of late diagnosis and early death”.

Dr Victoria Barber, a GP in Northamptonshire and advocate for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the primary care community said: “Symptoms do appear early on in ovarian cancer, and your GP wants to hear from you if you’re experiencing any of them, if they are new for you and if they do not go away”.

She added: “Similarly, it’s vital that GPs are knowledgeable on ovarian cancer and know how to advise patients who have concerns.”

The NHS says the main symptoms of ovarian cancer include frequently having:

  • A swollen tummy or feeling bloated
  • Pain or tenderness in your tummy or the area between the hips (pelvis)
  • No appetite or feeling full quickly after eating
  • An urgent need to pee or needing to pee more often

The health body says other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include digestive signs, such as indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea.

Other signs are:

  • Back pain
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bleeding from the vagina after the menopause

These symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions, including IBS, endometriosis or PMS.

However, the symptoms could still be ovarian cancer and need to be checked by a GP.

If symptoms are not ovarian cancer and are still causing you distress they need to be treated too.

If they are caused by cancer, finding it early can mean it’s more treatable and your chances of survival will dramatically increase.

Researchers don’t know for certain what causes ovarian cancer, but the risk of developing it increases with age.

In fact, more than half of all cases in the UK are in those aged 65 or over.

You may have a higher chance of developing this kind of cancer if you have inherited a faulty gene, have had breast or bowel cancer, have endometriosis or diabetes, or started your periods at a young age.

If you went through menopause late or have not had a baby, have never used any hormonal contraception, are taking HRT, are overweight, or smoke, you also have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

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