Cancer type:

Ovarian Cancer

  • Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common form of female cancer in the UK
  • There were 7,378 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2014, roughly 140 women every week
  • Each year in the UK there are over 4,000 deaths from ovarian cancer
  • The risks of developing ovarian cancer increase with age
  • The earlier the intervention the better the outcome
  • Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over 50, but younger women are also affected
  • It’s not possible to screen for ovarian cancer so it’s vital women are aware of the symptoms
  • These symptoms include bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause
  • Other symptoms include feeling bloated, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate urgently or more often
  • Recent research showed only 4% of women are very confident about recognising these symptoms
  • At the moment, 5 year survival rates for ovarian cancer are about 46%
  • Given early diagnosis, however, these survival rates can increase to over 90%.
  • Unfortunately the risks of ovarian cancer increase with both age and the menopause
  • It’s not possible to screen for ovarian cancer so it is vital you are aware of the symptoms
  • The main symptoms are bleeding - after sex, between periods or after the menopause
  • Others include difficulty eating/feeling full, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate more urgently
  • Also symptomatic of ovarian cancer are unintentional weight loss and feeling tired all the time
  • In around only one in every ten cases of ovarian cancer is a family link identified
  • If you have two or more family relatives with a history of ovarian cancer you should see your GP
  • When looking at genetic factors, both sides of a woman’s family (mother and father) should be considered
  • Having children and breastfeeding them are known to reduce the risks of ovarian cancer
  • Taking the oral contraceptive pill for a number of years also reduces the risks
  • Although child rearing and the contraceptive pill reduces the risks, they do not offer complete protection
  • Eat well and learn to reduce the stress in your life with hobbies, socialising and meditation
  • Because there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, picking up on symptoms early is vital
  • Try online symptom checkers such as this one from the NHS:
  • The early symptoms of ovarian cancer are difficult to recognise, especially if there is no vaginal bleeding
  • The symptoms may present as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Other changes you should watch for are pain during sex, back pain or a change in bowel habits
  • If you are concerned by any of the above symptoms then see your GP
  • It's unlikely you have cancer, but it's best to check. Your GP can do some simple tests
  • Your GP may feel your tummy to check for swelling or lumps and carry out an internal examination
  • Your GP may also do a CA125 blood test as high levels sometimes indicate ovarian cancer
  • They’ll arrange for you to have an ultrasound scan if blood tests suggests you have ovarian cancer
  • If abnormalities are found, you'll be referred to a specialist for further tests to confirm the cause
  • At this point your specialist will carry out further tests to confirm or rule out ovarian cancer
  • If you have ovarian cancer, it will be given a stage and a grade
  • The stage depends on the size and how far it has spread, the grade estimates the speed
  • Treatment depends on how far it’s spread, your health and whether you're still able to have children
  • A combination of surgery and chemotherapy is most commonly used
  • A team of healthcare professionals will come up with a treatment plan and support you throughout your treatment
  • Surgery is the main treatment for ovarian cancer, to remove all or as much of it as possible
  • If the cancer is just in one or both ovaries, you may only need to have them removed
  • If very advanced, surgery involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb and a layer of fatty tissue
  • Most women with ovarian cancer also have chemotherapy to help kill off any remaining cells
  • Side-effects include tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhoea and increased risk of infections
  • Less usually a course of radiotherapy may also be decided upon
  • Ask your team about research into newer and better treatments for ovarian cancer through clinical trials
Download Ovarian Cancer Factsheet


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