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Health facts: How to spot the signs of ovarian cancer

See your GP if you have other symptoms that don’t go away, especially if you're over 50
Fiona MacRae

Symptoms of common serious illnesses to watch out for

This week:

Ovarian cancer

OVARIAN cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, with almost 7,500 new cases a year in the UK. And with 4,100 deaths a year – 11 a day – it is the deadliest gynaecological cancer.

It is called ‘the silent killer’ because its symptoms can easily be mistaken for those of less serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, especially in the early stages. As a result, two thirds of cases are not picked up until the cancer has spread around the body, when it is very hard to treat.

Yet if it is detected in the earliest stage, more than 90 per cent of women survive for five years or more.

The most common symptoms to watch for are bloating that doesn’t come and go, pelvic or abdominal pain most days, feeling full quickly when eating or loss of appetite, and needing the toilet frequently.

Others symptoms include indigestion and nausea, a change in bowel habits, back pain, vaginal bleeding, lethargy and weight loss.

Yet a recent poll found more than one woman in five mistakenly think smear tests, which screen for cervical cancer, also pick up ovarian cancer. Some experts think this means women are ignoring symptoms because they assume there is nothing to worry about.

The charity Target Ovarian Cancer advises women to see their GP if they feel constantly bloated and have other symptoms that don’t go away, especially if they are over 50 or have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer (as this can raise the risk of the disease).

© Solo dmg media

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