A Guide To Ovarian Cancer Symptoms & What To Look Out For

What is Ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries and is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Ovaries are female reproductive organs located in the lower tummy that are connected to the womb. They make hormones and release eggs which are needed for pregnancy each month. 

Ovarian cancer develops when cells in the ovaries grow abnormally and uncontrollably, leading to cancer. This type of cancer mainly affects women over 50 who have been through menopause but can affect younger women too. We take a look at the main ovarian cancer symptoms in greater detail.

What are the main ovarian cancer symptoms? 

The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are: 

  • Abnormal bloating
  • Swelling or discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
  • Change in appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Needing to urinate more frequently than normal
  • Changes in your bowel habits
  • Feeling full quickly
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

Be aware that in many cases, early-stage ovarian cancer may not have any symptoms. You should go to see a private GP if you have been feeling bloated, particularly more than 12 times a month, you have other symptoms (as listed above) that are not going away and if you have a family history of ovarian cancer. 

It is important not to panic if you do have some of the symptoms listed above, as they can be related to more common conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome); however, it is always best to be on the safe side, our GP’s can do a few simple tests to confirm whether you have it. 

What causes ovarian cancer? 

It’s not clear what causes ovarian cancer, but cancer is often caused by changes in cell DNA. The risk of getting ovarian cancer increases with age and is most common in women over 50 who have been through the menopause. 

Here are some of the things that can increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer:

  • Family history of ovarian or breast cancer
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking 
  • Being exposed to too much asbestos
  • Hormone replacement therapy (although the increase of cancer risk from this is very low)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medical conditions such as endometriosis or diabetes

Can ovarian cancer be cured?

If detected early, yes, it’s possible to cure ovarian cancer by having an operation to remove your ovaries, womb and fallopian tubes (hysterectomy). If you have advanced-stage ovarian cancer, you may also be referred for chemotherapy after surgery to remove any of the remaining cancer cells. Sometimes chemotherapy is also used before surgery in order to shrink the cancer. 

In some really unfortunate cases, ovarian cancer may have spread too far to be curable, in these cases the aim is to make the symptoms as manageable as possible. 

We understand that having an incurable case of cancer, or a friend or family member with incurable cancer can be very overwhelming and extremely upsetting; if you need to talk feel free to make an appointment with one of our GPs or private therapists who can help by talking through all of your concerns and questions. 

How to check for ovarian cancer

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should monitor them in the first instance. If they last for a few weeks it would be a good idea to speak to one of our GPs, they may request a blood test and ultrasound and refer you to our private Gynaecologist who will be able to assess you and help with the next steps. 

How fast does ovarian cancer spread?

Ovarian cancer generally spreads to the surrounding organs first, such as the bowel or bladder. Over time, it then spreads into your lymph nodes, the lining of your abdomen, liver and lungs. 

Ovarian cancer is more aggressive than others such as breast cancer, in many cases it can grow quickly, progressing from early stages to advanced within a year. This is why it is so important to keep an eye on what your body is doing so that you can catch it early. 

Ovarian cancer is scary for anyone who has it or if you know of anyone that does. If caught early enough, treatment can help to ensure that the cancer goes into remission. Here at MyHealthcare Clinic, we are with you every step of the journey.

For more information on ovarian cancer, or if you think that you need a check-up, please book an appointment with one of our private GPs or our gynaecologist at our sexual health clinic who will be able to answer any questions that you might have.