Ovarian Cancer – The Hidden Killer?


The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often mistaken for other conditions, which can be life threatening as it leads to the cancer being spotted too late. Target Ovarian Cancer, who are taking part in World Ovarian Cancer Day (WOCD) on May 8th note that ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all gynaecological cancers, and is responsible for over 140,000 deaths a year.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day

Hard to Spot

The nature of the symptoms of ovarian cancer mean that it can often initially be mistaken for other conditions such as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Ovarian cancer has been called the 'silent killer', as the symptoms can be difficult to recognise.

A 14 year trial by the University College London has been researching ways in which we can spot ovarian cancer to increase chances of survival. They have found that regular blood tests could help spot ovarian cancer early, and in the future, we could see regular screening in the form of a blood test to detect ovarian cancer.

Gene testing can also inform people of their chances of cancer as in 1 in 10 cases, ovarian cancer is caused by a genetic link. In the news recently, Angelina Jolie has helped to raise awareness by speaking out about her ovaries removed to reduce her risk of cancer due to a genetic link. This has helped people become more aware of gene testing and taking pre-emptive measures to tackle cancer.

What are the Symptoms?

Many people believe ovarian cancer has little or no symptoms, but this is often because there is a lack of awareness around what the symptoms are, and because the symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions.

You should look out for:

  • Increased abdominal size and persistent bloating
  • Feeling full and difficulty eating
  • Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Needing to pass urine more frequently or urgently

Raising Awareness

Most people are still unaware of these symptoms, which means it is more important than ever to get involved this year to help raise awareness. Target Ovarian Cancer, the national ovarian cancer charity, recommend ways in which you can help. You can sign up to the World Ovarian Cancer Day Pledge to tell 5 friends about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, or order symptoms leaflets from them to hold your own awareness event.

Getting Advice

Helen Donaghy, our Partner and Assistant Head of Medical Negligence, adds:

"The outlook for ovarian cancer will depend very much upon the stage at which it is diagnosed, but unfortunately, given the nature of ovarian cancer it is not usually diagnosed until the disease is in the advanced stages at which point the outcome is usually inevitable. However, it may be the case that there are missed opportunities to investigate further which may have resulted in an earlier diagnosis and treatment which in turn would impact upon survival rates."

Any misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis can lead to you needing more extensive treatment that may not have been necessary if spotted sooner. It can cause financial and emotional hardship, and worst of all, threaten your life.

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