Three-quarters of women do not know that bloating is a key symptom of ovarian cancer, a charity has warned.
A poll of 1,000 women for Target Ovarian Cancer found 79 per cent did not know that bloating is a symptom.
Sixty-eight per cent were unaware abdominal pain is a sign and 97 per cent were unaware that feeling full is another.
Most women (99 per cent) did not know that needing to urinate more urgently is also a sign, while evidence suggests women can often be told their symptoms are more a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Sixty-eight per cent were unaware abdominal pain is a sign and 97 per cent were unaware that feeling full is another (stock)
Some 40 per cent of women also incorrectly believed ovarian cancer can be picked up by screening for cervical cancer, the survey found.
Ovarian cancer kills around a third of women in the first year after diagnosis and is often diagnosed in the late stages.
There are around 7,500 new ovarian cancer cases in the UK every year.
Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: ‘These figures are incredibly disappointing.
‘We know we’ve shifted the dial in the past 10 years through the dedication of thousands of Target Ovarian Cancer’s campaigners, but it is not enough.
‘Knowing the symptoms is crucial for everyone. We need to make sustained and large-scale Government-backed symptoms campaigns a reality.
‘Progress is possible. If we do this, fewer people will be diagnosed late, fewer will need invasive treatment, and, ultimately, fewer will die needlessly from ovarian cancer.’
Katy Stephenson, 47, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, was diagnosed with early-stage ovarian cancer in 2021.
She said: ‘I had been experiencing symptoms like bloating and needing to wee more urgently for a few months, but I’d put it down to being peri-menopausal.
‘I had a fluke diagnosis when I was admitted to hospital with appendicitis. If that hadn’t happened, the cancer probably would have spread, and I hate to think about what would have happened.
‘I was actually told that I wouldn’t have symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer – but I did. I want everyone to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
‘The only person that will catch them is you, so be aware of your own body, speak to a GP, and don’t be afraid to mention ovarian cancer if you’re worried.’
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.
‘Similarly, it’s vital that GPs are knowledgeable on ovarian cancer and know how to advise patients who have concerns. Target Ovarian Cancer has a GP education programme that can help you do this.’
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER?
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly early on.
They’re often the same as symptoms of less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Feeling constantly bloated
- A swollen tummy
- Discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
- Feeling full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite
- Needing to pee more often or more urgently than normal
Other symptoms can include:
- Persistent indigestion or nausea
- Pain during sex
- A change in your bowel habits
- Back pain
- Vaginal bleeding – particularly bleeding after the menopause
- Feeling tired all the time
- Unintentional weight loss
When to see your GP
See your GP if:
- You’ve been feeling bloated most days for the last three weeks
- You have other symptoms of ovarian cancer that won’t go away – especially if you’re over 50 or have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, as you may be at a higher risk
It’s unlikely you have cancer, but it’s best to check. Your GP can do some simple tests.
Source: NHS Choices
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