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  • Deborah Thomas BPT MCSP MAPPI Chartered Physio

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

March is Ovarian cancer awareness month, and so I thought I would draw attention to this type of cancer, specifically what signs & symptoms are important to look for and what you should do if you are concerned.



The ovaries are two small glands that are a part of the female reproductive system, which is also made up of the vagina, cervix, uterus (womb) and Fallopian tubes. Ovaries have two main functions:

• Produce, store, and release eggs for reproduction.

• Produce the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.


Ovarian cancer occurs when there are abnormal cells in the ovary which multiply, creating a tumour. Benign tumours are non-cancerous and do not usually spread to other parts of the body. They may require some treatment but are rarely life-threatening. If the tumour is malignant it is cancerous and when left untreated may spread to other parts of the body.


Did you know?

• Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK, with around 7000 diagnoses each year, and 4,300 deaths from the disease.

• Cervical screening tests (also known as ‘smear tests' will NOT detect ovarian cancer. This is a test to help PREVENT cancer)

• The sooner this cancer is detected – the better the survival chances: 90% survival for UK women diagnosed at the earliest stages.

• Other conditions, like IBS have similar symptoms but new cases of IBS in women over 50 are less likely.

• Most cases of Ovarian cancer are diagnosed in women who are post-menopausal; however, younger women can also get ovarian cancer. If a woman over 50 years of age presents with a new onset of IBS-like symptoms, it may be a sign of a serious disease, and it is important that ovarian cancer is considered as a differential diagnosis.


If you regularly experience any one or more of these, which are not normal for you, it is important you contact your GP.


Ovarian cancer symptoms are:

• Frequent – they usually happen more than 12 times a month.

• Persistent – they don’t go away.

• New – they are not normal for you.


Look out for:

• Persistent bloating

• Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite

• Pelvic or abdominal pain

• Urinary symptom: frequency and or urgency


Occasionally, people may experience:

• Changes in bowel habit (example diarrhoea or constipation)

• Extreme fatigue

• Unexplained weight loss

• ANY BLEEDING AFTER THE MENOPAUSE SHOULD ALWAYS BE INVESTIGATED BY A GP


You can track your symptoms using a FREE app by the charity ‘Target Ovarian Cancer’ or in print form –use this link: https://targetovariancancer.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-07/Target%20Ovarian%20Cancer%20symptoms%20diary.pdf


Act early if you are concerned! You know your body best. When calling the GP’s surgery – tell them you are concerned about cancer.


When you speak to your GP:

• Be aware: The average GP only sees one case of ovarian cancer every five years.

• Show them your symptoms diary.

• Let them know if two or more relatives in your close family have had ovarian or breast cancer, on either your mother or fathers’ side.

• If your symptoms don’t go away – contact your GP again. If you have already seen a GP and your symptoms continue or get worse, go back to them and explain this.


Your GP will probably:

• Order a blood test to look at levels of CA125.

• Might order an ultrasound scan of your abdomen and pelvis.



The most important message is early detection is key. If you feel concerned – go back to your GP.


Where can you get more support & information:

• Target Ovarian cancer: support line: 0207 923 5475. (targetovariancancer.org.uk)

• Ovarian Cancer Action https://ovarian.org.uk/


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