Although almost nine in 10 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer suffer from bloating, in most cases this is not the symptom which prompts them to see their GP.
Only 20% of women who suffer from bloating seek medical help for this symptom. This is despite a persistently bloated stomach being one of the key symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Ovacome unveiled results of the biggest patient survey of its kind, today at the British Gynaecological Cancer Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Glasgow. The Study of 324 women found that despite bloating being the most common symptom, women are more likely to seek medical help when they have abdominal pain (47%), or a change in urination (25%).
With average age of the women taking part in the survey being 56 years old, the charity believes that participants may have dismissed bloating as being a natural body change associated with menopause.
“We know that bloating, when it is persistent, is an important indicator of ovarian cancer and yet it seems there is still a big awareness job to be done to get that message across to both women and their GPs, “says Ovacome CEO Louise Bayne.
“It’s understandable why women, who generally will suffer from bloating from time to time and their GPSs, who typically see just one case of ovarian cancer every five years, might not link it to the disease.
“But if bloating doesn’t come and go, everyone really needs to be aware that it could be something that needs further investigations,” she adds.
Women who went to their GP with bloating in 2016 had to wait an average of 22 weeks for a referral to a gynaecologist specialist. This compared with a 17 week wait if they complained of abdominal pain. In addition, the number of women being incorrectly referred to gastroenterology increased from 20% in 2006 – when the original survey was held – to 26% in 2016.
“We aim to use the results of this survey to highlight to women and their health professionals that bloating should be considered as an important indicator or potential ovarian cancer,” says Bayne. “Ovarian cancer needs to be ruled out early on, instead of wasting time treating the symptoms as being Irritable Bowel Disease or the menopause.”
The charity will continue to spread awareness of its BEAT acronym of the main symptoms of the disease: B is for bloating that does not come and go; E is for easting less and feeling fuller quicker; A is for abdominal pain and T is for telling your GP.
Ovacome will place the results of the survey at the centre of its awareness work to inform women and the medical community about ovarian cancer, the fifth most common cancer for women in the UK, with 7,300 new cases diagnosed every year.