Every year over 7000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In our guide to Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we aim to help raise awareness by going through symptoms, statistics, and general information which could help with an earlier diagnosis.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is cancer arising from the cells in and around the ovary and fallopian tube. There are many different types of ovarian tumours classified by the types of cells and tissue they originate from.
Ovarian tumours tend to develop from three kinds of tissue:
- Around 85-95% come from epithelial cells. This means the cancer started in the surface covering the ovary. These tumours are more likely to occur in women aged 50 and above. They are sometimes referred to as carcinomas.
- 5-8% per cent of tumours come from stromal cells. The stroma is the supportive tissue of the ovary. Stromal cell tumours may occur in women of any age, although certain tumours, such as androblastomas, may be more common in adolescence.
- 3-5% of ovarian tumours come from germ cells. They are the cells in the body that develop into sperm and eggs. Germ cell tumours tend to occur in younger women.
Research shows only 3% of women in the UK can confidently name a symptom of ovarian cancer which is dramatically small. Symptoms are:
• Pelvic or abdominal pain
• Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
• Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
• Needing to wee more urgently or more often
There can be other symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or loss of appetite. These symptoms will be frequent and persistent – usually happening around 12 or more times a month. If you regularly get these symptoms and they are not normal for you, it’s time to visit your GP.
A women’s risk of getting ovarian cancer increases with age, with most cases appearing in women that have gone through menopause (around 50 years old). However though, around 1000 young women develop a type of ovarian cancer too, which is why it is important that women of all ages are aware of the symptoms, and what the next steps are.
Act early if you feel like something could be wrong. Listen to your friends and family for advice, and if they mention concerns. Make an appointment as soon as possible at your GP, and bring a family member or friend with you for support.
Your GP should do a CA125 blood test which will measure the level of CA125 (a type of protein) in your blood stream. Depending on the results of the blood test, they could recommend an ultrasound on your stomach and ovaries which creates a picture of the tissues and organs inside your body.
Treatment for this type of cancer is fairly standard in terms of removing cancer, but can vary depending on the stage of diagnosis and type.
It is common to treat cancer with surgery to remove the majority and then chemotherapy to kill the lasting cancer cells. In some cases surgery is deemed too risky and chemotherapy is recommended from the start, while in other earlier cases, surgery may be all that is needed.
- Hold a coffee morning
- Organise a garden/theme party
- Hold a car boot sale
- Hold a pub quiz
- Have a casual clothing work or school day
- Talent contest
- Bake sale
- Bucket collection
- Sponsored run
Ovarian Cancer in Numbers
- 7300 women are diagnosed each year in the UK
- 4100 women lose their lives each year – that’s 11 women in the UK who die every day from ovarian cancer
- A woman in the UK has a 2% chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime
- When a woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, her chance of survival for 5 years or more doubles from just 46% to more than 90%
- 44% of GP’s mistakenly believe symptoms only present in the later stages of ovarian cancer
- Just 1 in 5 UK women can name bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancer
- Almost half of women must wait 3 months or more from visiting their GP to getting a correct diagnosis
- 26% of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed though A&E
- 31% of women mistakenly think the cervical screening programme would detect ovarian cancer
If you would like to donate, or fundraise on behalf of the charity and cause, visit www.targetovariancancer.org.uk where you will find more information, downloads, and ways you can donate.
Reference and images – www.targetovariancancer.org.uk