Ovarian cancer symptoms: The ‘red flag’ signs from bloating to tiredness

Janey Godley gives update on her Ovarian cancer

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About 7,500 women receive the sad news of ovarian cancer diagnosis yearly in the UK, according to Ovarian Cancer Action. Sadly, the charity also explains that this type of cancer is often picked up at a later stage. Eliza Esiategiwa, Medical Negligence Solicitor at Patient Claim Line, has shared what to look out for when it comes to this cancer. 

Esiategiwa said: “Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply out of control and form a tumour. 

“If left untreated, the tumour can spread to other parts of the body. This is known as metastatic ovarian cancer.”

The expert also explained the “red flag” signs to help spot this condition.

She continued: “For women, particularly over the age of 50, it should be flagged if they’ve experienced any of the following symptoms persistently and particularly if more than 12 times per month.”

The warning signs she listed include:

  • Bloating
  • Feeling full
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Increased urinary urgency or frequency.

Esiategiwa added: “Additional red flag symptoms include malaise or fatigue, a change in bowel habits, abnormal or postmenopausal bleeding and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as dyspepsia, nausea, bowel obstruction or shortness of breath.

“Symptoms suggestive of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) within the last 12 months should also be flagged for women over the age of 50.” 

The NHS urges seeing a GP if you experience any signs of ovarian cancer.

While symptoms like these are very common and can by triggered by a variety of conditions, it’s “important” to get checked, the health service explains.

“This is because if they’re caused by cancer, finding it early can mean it’s more treatable,” the health body shares.

Esiategiwa explained what happens when the condition progresses. She said: “If left untreated, the tumour can spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastatic ovarian cancer. 

“Ovarian cancer often has warning signs, but the earliest symptoms are vague and easy to dismiss; 20 percent of ovarian cancers are detected at an early stage.

“Research has shown that ovarian tumours that begin in the Fallopian tubes – as is thought to be the case in high-grade serious ovarian carcinoma, which is the most common subtype of ovarian cancer – take an average of 6.5 years to spread to the ovaries.

“Because ovarian cancer often does not produce noticeable symptoms in early stages, and any signs or symptoms often mimic common problems that are not typically cause for concern, it is possible to have ovarian cancer without knowing it for several years.”

However, once you notice these signs and approach your doctor for help, there are certain things your GP should do, according to the expert.

Esiategiwa said: “Your GP should arrange a CA125 blood test and possibly an ultrasound scan if you display any persistent symptoms.

“They should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to ovarian cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

“GPs should especially refer a woman if they are aged 50 or over and have been experiencing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as IBS rarely develops for the first time in women of this age. 

“IBS can cause a broad range of similar symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and the swelling of the tummy.”

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