From Silent Killer to Whispering Disease – Know the Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Cancer Research Wales is contributing to the understanding of cancer by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms where possible, whilst improving treatments and pursuing the development of much needed diagnostic tests to help diagnose cancers earlier.
Ovarian Cancer is frequently called the ‘Silent Killer’ as it is often first detected when it is quite advanced and has already spread beyond the ovaries, making it harder to treat, manage and cure. This is partly due to the fact that ovarian cancer, in the early stages may be without symptoms, and where symptoms do occur, they can be vague, mild, and easily confused with more common and less serious ailments such as indigestion, irritable bowel, or a water infection.
CA-125 is a blood protein that is elevated in many cases of ovarian cancer, and can be used by GPs for ruling out ovarian cancer in women who first experience symptoms, or for monitoring treatment response in women with confirmed ovarian cancer. However, since CA-125 levels may be raised in other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, diverticulitis, liver disease, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and menstruation, it is unsatisfactory for screening purposes.
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are feelings of constant bloating, swelling and discomfort in the abdomen, indigestion or feeling full quickly when eating, change in bowel habits, urgent need to urinate or needing to urinate more frequently. Other symptoms may include back pain, pain during intercourse, vaginal bleeding – especially after the menopause, unintentional weight loss and unexplained fatigue.
Even when these symptoms are present, they are unlikely to be caused by ovarian cancer, but an increased awareness of symptoms, that can be checked where and when they occur, will help save lives. NHS Choices recommend seeing a GP if feelings of bloating occur most days and last longer than three weeks. Also if you experience other symptoms of ovarian cancer that are persistent and won’t resolve, particularly if over the age of 50 or have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.