Target Ovarian Cancer’s latest research shows that women may unknowingly put themselves at risk when experiencing a key symptom of ovarian cancer – persistent bloating. Half of women (50%) said they would change their diet if they were concerned about bloating. In contrast, just one in three (34%) said they would see a doctor about it, leaving them at risk of a delayed diagnosis.
Currently, two thirds of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer once the cancer has spread, making it more difficult to treat.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
Persistent bloating - not bloating that comes and goes
Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
Pelvic or abdominal pain (that's your tummy and below)
Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)
Other symptoms can include unexpected weight loss, change in bowel habits, and extreme fatigue.
There are several myths surrounding Ovarian Cancer that it's important to dispel. These include:
Myth 1: A smear test can detect ovarian cancer
One in three women mistakenly believes that a smear test will pick up ovarian cancer, but there is currently no screening programme for ovarian cancer, which is why it is important to know the symptoms and visit your GP if you are worried. It’s really important to go for your cervical screening (also known as a smear test) when you are called, but a smear test will not detect ovarian cancer.
Myth 2: The BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations (that Angelina Jolie has spoken so much about) only put you at increased risk of breast cancer
Actually, 15-20 per cent of ovarian cancers are caused by genetic mutations. The most common mutations are in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and these increase a woman’s risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. The risk of developing ovarian cancer is about two per cent for women generally, but rises to 30-50 per cent for women with a BRCA1 mutation and 10-25 per cent for women with a BRCA2 mutation. Remember that genetic mutations linked to ovarian cancer can be passed down on the mother’s and the father’s side of the family, so it’s important to know a family history on both sides.
Myth 3: What about talcum powder?
Various studies have shown a link between using talcum powder between the legs and ovarian cancer. Target Ovarian Cancer therefore generally advises against using talcum powder on this area of the body. However, it is important to note that the increased risk is very small. For someone without a family history of ovarian cancer the lifetime risk of developing the disease is two per cent. Put another way, that’s four women out of 200. For those that use talcum powder it could be five in 200.
Myth 4: What about HRT and the Pill?
Taken for 10 years or more, the combined contraceptive Pill actually lowers your risk of ovarian cancer. On the other hand, taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can increase your risk by up to 40 per cent. This works out as one extra case of ovarian cancer per 1,000 women using HRT. The additional risk of ovarian cancer reduces again five years after stopping HRT, and we say it’s always important to weigh up the benefits of HRT against potential risks by discussing this with your GP.
Anyone who is worried about the symptoms of ovarian cancer or any other aspect of the disease can get in touch with Target Ovarian Cancer’s nurse-led Support Line. Val and Joan provide confidential information, support and signposting for anyone affected by ovarian cancer. Contact our Support Line on 020 7923 5475 (Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm) or get in touch online www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/supportline
Watch Target Ovarian Cancer’s new symptoms video to find out more.
REAL LIFE STORY
By Cheymarie Shaw cheymarie_fit
'It’s crazy to think that almost 2 years ago, I was getting surgery to hopefully remove the ovarian cancer that had taken over my little body at only 23 years old. Ovarian cancer is know as the SILENT KILLER and that’s because symptoms don’t usually appear until the later stages, like myself. I was diagnosed at Stage 3 and unfortunately it ended up in my spleen and lymph nodes making the new diagnoses Stage 4B...the last stage.
Looking back, I HAD EVERY SINGLE SYMPTOM of ovarian cancer and I had no idea!
A yearly pap CAN NOT detect ovarian cancer! A vaginal ultra sound CAN NOT detect ovarian cancer but can show signs of a mass. A CT/MRI scan can show signs of cancer but CAN NOT determine if it is OVCA! The only way to 100% determine if it is ovarian cancer is by a BIOPSY and that’s it! The CA125 tumor marker level is the way the doctors monitor ovarian cancer once it has already been confirmed that it is OVCA and even then, it’s not always correct!'