Raising awareness of ovarian cancer

In Hartlepool we are more likely to die young from cancer than people in most other parts of the UK. March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month so this week I really wanted to draw your attention to the symptoms and what we can do to prevent or diagnose the disease earlier.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women after breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the uterus (womb). There were over 4,000 deaths from ovarian cancer in 2014 but it is important to note that 21% of ovarian cancer cases are preventable.

The ovaries are a pair of small organs located low in the tummy that are connected to the womb and store a woman’s supply of eggs. Ovarian cancer mainly affects women who have been through the menopause (usually over the age of 50), but it can sometimes affect younger women. It is most common in women who have been through the menopause (usually over the age of 50), although it can affect women of any age.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to spot as they are very similar to those of other conditions but the most common symptoms are;

  • feeling constantly bloated
  • a swollen tummy
  • discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
  • feeling full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite
  • needing to pee more often or more urgently than normal

See your GP if:

  • you’ve been feeling bloated most days for the last three weeks
  • you have other symptoms of ovarian cancer that won’t go away
  • you have a family history of ovarian cancer and are worried you may be at a higher risk of getting it

Causes

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, but certain things are thought to increase a woman’s risk of developing the condition, as with most types of cancer, the outlook for ovarian cancer will depend on the stage it’s at when diagnosed – that is, how far the cancer has advanced. But some things may increase a woman’s risk of getting it, such as:

  • being over 50 years of age
  • a family history of ovarian or breast cancer – this could mean you’ve inherited genes that increase your cancer risk
  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – although any increase in cancer risk is likely to be very small
  • endometriosis – a condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside the womb being overweight

A cervical screening test, which used to be called a smear test, can’t detect ovarian cancer so please talk to your friends and family about the symptoms as the more aware everyone is of the symptoms of ovarian cancer the better we can detect and treat it.

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