“Catching cancer early often increases the chances of effective treatment,” said Dr Ooi. “And we should all be aware of changes in our bodies, no matter how subtle they are.” One of the “early symptoms” is dyspareunia, which is the medical term for painful intercourse.
“Pain in the back or stomach, or pain during sex, can be early indicators [of ovarian cancer], while some women will feel more bloated than usual,” added Dr Ooi.
“Ovarian cancer carries a range of early symptoms, including swelling in the stomach or the sensation of feeling full as if you’ve had a large meal.
“Some women might notice a loss of appetite or an inability to finish their meals, and a sudden unexplained weight loss can also be a red flag.”
While these symptoms can be indicative of a growing tumour, they could be due to another health condition.
If you encounter any symptoms that are unusual for you, it’s best to book an appointment with your doctor.
Each year in the UK, around 7,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, making it the sixth most common form of tumour.
Cancer Research UK says ovarian cancer develops when “abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way”.
If the tumour is not caught in the earliest of stages, it has a greater risk of growing into the surrounding tissues.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Feeling full quickly
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in your tummy (abdomen) or lower part of your abdomen that doesn’t go away
- Bloating or an increase in the size of your abdomen
- Needing to wee more often
- Tiredness that is unexplained
- Weight loss that is unexplained
- Changes in your bowel habit or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, especially if this starts after the age of 50.
What increases a person’s risk of ovarian cancer?
Risk factors can range from smoking to obesity, in addition to having endometriosis or diabetes.
“You cannot always prevent ovarian cancer but there are things you can do to lower your chances of getting it,” the NHS adds.
The health body says in order to lower your risk of ovarian cancer, it’s helpful to:
- Quit smoking
- Stay a healthy weight or lose weight if you’re overweight
- Talk with a GP about possible tests or treatment (taking a hormonal contraception or removing your ovaries) if ovarian cancer runs in your family.
There are some risk factors that you simply can not control, such as an inherited faulty gene, such as the BRCA genes.
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
The NHS says: “A blood test and a scan are usually done first, but other tests are often needed to diagnose ovarian cancer.”
Diagnostic tools can include ultrasounds, a biopsy, and surgery to remove tissue from the ovaries.
Test results should be ready in a matter of weeks, which means if cancer is detected, treatment can begin.
GP Dr Stephanie Ooi works at the leading private healthcare service MyHealthcare Clinic.
MyHealthcare Clinic is a doctor-led private healthcare business offering personalised dental and specialist medical care under one roof.