We're campaigning this Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to stop the symptoms of the disease being confused with gut health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion or a food intolerance.

A story that we unfortunately hear time and again from our members is that either they or their their health professional mistook the signs of ovarian cancer for common gut health issues. 

It's easy to see why – the four most common signs of ovarian cancer are very similar to those caused by common conditions such as IBS. 

Recognise the B.E.A.T. signs of ovarian cancer:

B is for bloating that doesn't come and go

E is for eating difficulty and feeling full more quickly

A is for abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days

T is for toilet changes, in urination or bowel habits

This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we have an important message for anyone who was born with ovaries: if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, which are unusual for you and aren’t going away, consider that they could be caused by a gynaecological problem.

This message goes out to health professionals too. We know what an incredible difference primary care professionals can make when they consider ovarian cancer sooner in the diagnostic process.

In a study published by Ovacome in 2016, in partnership with University Hospital Birmingham, it was found that 26% of respondents had been incorrectly referred to gastroenterology (the branch of medicine focused on the digestive system) before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The study surveyed 324 people diagnosed with ovarian cancer after 2006.

The study also found that while 89% of respondents had experienced bloating as a symptom of their ovarian cancer, only 20% said that bloating had prompted them to see a doctor.

We need your help to ensure that everyone understands the signs of ovarian cancer, to increase early diagnosis and improve treatment outcomes.

The important topic of diet and gut health is covered widely in the media - it is now time that equal attention is given to gynaecological health awareness.

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How can I make a difference?

Take action with us this Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

You can make a difference this March by helping us to spread our vital awareness message.

One of the most powerful ways to raise awareness is by sharing your experience of ovarian cancer, whether you have been diagnosed yourself or you have supported someone with the disease. We will be sharing as many stories as we can across March, so please let us know here if you would be interested in sharing yours. You'll have control over where your story is shared and if you're interested in press opportunities, Ovacome will support you every step of the way.

You can read diagnosis stories from other members of our community here.

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Help educate the doctors and nurses of the future

Ovacome is the only UK provide of the pioneering Survivors Teaching Students project, in which volunteers living with ovarian cancer share their story with medical and nursing students, discussing their experience of diagnosis and how their symptoms presented. These sessions have a lasting impact on students, with the aim that once they are qualified, they will consider ovarian cancer sooner in the diagnostic process when they see a patient with the symptoms.

If you're involved in higher education and would like to book a free session for your students, you can make an enquiry here.

We also run a separate education programme for qualified clinicians, which aims to highlight some of the barriers to diagnosis and treatment experienced by certain under-represented communities. You can find out more about these sessions and book here.

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Take part in research to shape the future

The PATRON study

In a wide scale research project Ovacome is working with clinicians to better understand the impact of being treated for ovarian cancer.

The PATRON study will survey 200 people with stage three or four ovarian, fallopian tube and peritoneal cancer, alongside 100 healthcare professionals to identify areas for improvement in supporting patients.

It will survey the emotional and physical effects felt by patients after treatment and investigate how clinicians can meet their clinical and emotional needs.

If you would like to be considered for participation please contact Ovacome’s support services to register your interest ready for when the study opens. Participants must have finished their first round of chemotherapy two to 12 months prior to taking part. This research will be submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal to inform how patients are treated in the future.

Please contact us on [email protected] or on 0800 008 7054 if you would like to participate.

Share your Tesco Clubcard data to help spot self-medication patterns before diagnosis

You can take part in a pioneering study looking at self-medication patterns, seeing whether there are common medications that people buy to treat their ovarian cancer symptoms prior to diagnosis. The aim is to see whether grocery loyalty card data could be used in the future to get people with ovarian cancer diagnosed earlier. You can find out more and share your Clubcard data here.

This study follows on from a survey of 101 people with ovarian cancer which found the following results:

Shopping patterns and ovarian cancer diagnosis study results