Ovarian cancer symptoms: ‘Subtle’ signs which can be ‘overlooked’ – check collar bone
Janey Godley gives update on her Ovarian cancer
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Ovarian cancer, or cancer of the ovaries, is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, and eventually form a tumour. Cancer Research UK says in females in the UK, ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer, with around 7,500 new cases every year.
Mr Saurabh Phadnis, Consultant Gynaecologist and Gynaecological Oncologist at London Gynaecology noted some “subtle symptoms” of ovarian cancer which are “often overlooked”.
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Any change in urinary frequency particularly urgency may be mistaken for infection
- Change in bowel habits particularly diarrhoea often mistaken as IBS
- Persistent cough or shortness of breath or fatigue might be a sign of collection of fluid in the chest
- Unusual lumps like in the groin or near collar bone.
Doctor John Butler, medical director of The Lady Garden Foundation and consultant gynaecological oncology surgeon at The Royal Marsden said: “Ovarian cancer was called the silent killer but we now know that most women do have symptoms that can help early diagnosis.”
He adds: “The most common symptoms are abdominal swelling or bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, reduced appetite or feeling full more quickly and the need to pass urine more frequently.
“These symptoms are common and usually do not mean there is a problem however if they persist after a few weeks or are increasing it’s important to get checked out.”
The doctor said in common with other cancers in the abdomen there are other symptoms such as indigestion, change in bowel habit, feeling tired, back pain, losing weight without trying, shortness or breath, feeling a new lump, or abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Doctor John noted ovarian cancer symptoms are not related to the menstrual cycle and usually become progressively worse with time.
He said: “It’s important to track any symptoms you have and seek medical advice if you are concerned as there is usually something we can do to help and organise any tests to make sure there is nothing major to worry about.
“If you have any severe symptoms, it’s important to seek prompt medical advice, for more subtle symptoms it’s worth getting checked out if they have not settled within six weeks.”
The doctor said the risk of ovarian cancer increases with age and most women are diagnosed after the menopause.
He said: “We are learning more about the genetic causes of ovarian cancer and about 15 percent of patients have a hereditary condition that caused their cancer.”
Some symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions, including IBS, endometriosis or PMS. However, the symptoms could still be ovarian cancer and need to be checked by a GP.
If symptoms are not ovarian cancer and are still causing you distress they need to be treated too.
If they are caused by cancer, finding it early can mean it’s more treatable and your chances of survival will dramatically increase.
Researchers don’t know for certain what causes ovarian cancer, but the risk of developing it increases with age.
In fact, more than half of all cases in the UK are in those aged 65 or over.
You may have a higher chance of developing this kind of cancer if you have inherited a faulty gene, have had breast or bowel cancer, have endometriosis or diabetes, or started your periods at a young age.
If you went through menopause late or have not had a baby, have never used any hormonal contraception, are taking HRT, are overweight, or smoke, you also have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
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