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January 5, 2018What you need to know about Ovarian Cancer
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-death among women – in the UK, it causes over 4,000 deaths per year. Around 140 women are diagnosed with the disease per week – that means each day, 20 women are diagnosed.
Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer gives women the best chance of survival. Unfortunately, most women are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread, making treatment more challenging and less successful. In fact, almost 60% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages, ovarian cancer can often present no symptoms. When symptoms do present themselves, they commonly include:
- Feeling bloated and/or having a swollen stomach
- Feeling discomfort in the stomach or pelvic area
- A loss of appetite, or feeling full having eaten very little
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Weight loss
- Constantly feeling tired
What are the risk factors?
The risk of developing ovarian cancer depends on a number of factors, including:
- Age. Although younger women can also develop ovarian cancer, the risk does increase with age – around 80% of cases are diagnosed in women over 50. Most cases occur in women who have gone through the menopause.
- Family history. Women with relatives, particularly close relatives, who have had ovarian cancer are more likely to develop the disease.
- 21% of ovarian cancer cases in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors, including being overweight and smoking.
Is there a test for ovarian cancer?
Contrary to popular belief, a cervical smear test cannot detect ovarian cancer. In the first instance, a blood test to check your CA-125 levels is advised. In 90% of women with ovarian cancer CA-125 (a protein) levels will be raised, although it’s important to note that a raised level does not diagnose ovarian cancer and further tests from your GP will be required for a full diagnosis. Read more here.
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