Today, in support World Ovarian Cancer Day, we're looking at the key symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer and how we can help ourselves, and the women we love, to safeguard against this disease.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer occurs "when cells in the ovaries grow and multiply uncontrollably, producing a lump of tissue called a tumour," writes the NHS. Sadly, it is the second most common of the five gynaecological cancers and the most difficult of the gynae cancers to diagnose as its symptoms are often confused with other less serious conditions. Ovarian cancer mainly affects women who have been through the menopause (usually over the age of 50), but not always so make sure you're keeping an eye on your ladybits at all times!
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of ovarian cancer are persistent bloating, a swollen tummy, persistent tummy and/or pelvic pain, needing to pee more often than normal and difficulty eating or feeling full quickly. If you've been experiencing any of these symptoms for at least three weeks, The Eve Appeal, the only UK national charity raising awareness and funding research into the five gynaecological cancers, would advise you to visit your GP to check nothing serious is going on. Just FYI, you're more likely to get ovarian cancer if it's in the family, particularly if your mum or sister has had it. Your risk also increases if you are overweight, a smoker or suffer from endometriosis.
How common is it?
Around 7,300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in the UK. This shocking figure is partly down to the fact that some of the symptoms (e.g. bloating and abdominal pain) are similar to those seen in more common conditions such as IBS, which is why most women are not diagnosed until the disease has spread. Sadly, around half will lose their battle with this brutal disease.
How is it treated?
Pioneering research has shown that if ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an early stage; more often than not, the prognosis is good. The treatment really depends on how far it's spread, your general health and whether you can still have children but most commonly people have a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
Why is talking about ovarian cancer so important?
The Eve Appeal recently surveyed women across the UK to see how they felt about discussing serious health concerns. A huge 50% wouldn't seek help for persistent bloating, 42% would keep it to themselves if they had abnormal vaginal bleeding and 29% wouldn't even go to the doctor if they found a lump or growth in their vagina. This cannot continue. We must empower women to speak up about their health concerns and support each other whatever the outcome – it could save lives.
For more information about The Eve Appeal or ovarian cancer please visit eveappeal.org.uk.