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Download our booklet on the symptoms of ovarian cancer

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Ovacome is a national charity providing support to those affected by ovarian cancer.  We give information about ovarian cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and research. Ovacome runs a telephone and email support line and works to raise awareness and give a voice to all those affected by the disease.

Ovarian cancer affects approximately 7000 people each year in the UK. It appears most often in those over 45 and after the menopause.

There are many different types of ovarian cancer.  These can be divided into three main groups; epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell ovarian cancer and sex-cord stromal ovarian tumours, depending on the type of tissue from which the cancer cells have grown.

For most people there is no particular reason why the cancer occurs. There are number of risk factors, including family history. Find out more about BRCA mutations and Lynch Syndrome, which can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancers can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms can be similar to more common and less serious conditions.  It is sometimes mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome although IBS rarely occurs for the first time in those aged over 50. A GP in an average size practice may see just one case of ovarian cancer every five years.     

In early stage ovarian cancer, treatment may be more successful with better results.

For information about cancer of the fallopian tubes or primary peritoneal cancer, visit our information pages.

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The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Persistent bloating of the abdomen.
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly.
  • Persistent abdominal and pelvic pain.
  • Changes in urination or bowel habit.

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Other symptoms can include:

  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue.
  • Backache.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Weight loss.

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You can use the Ovacome symptom diary to keep a record to show your doctor.

Remember, ovarian cancer is uncommon. However, if you are experiencing these symptoms, they are new to you and you are worried, talk to your GP. If your GP suspects you may have ovarian cancer they might ask for a blood test to measure your CA125. This is a protein that can be raised in ovarian cancer, but it can also be raised for reasons that are unrelated to cancer. The GP may also ask for an ultrasound examination of your abdomen and pelvis.

It is important to tell your doctor if you have close family members who have had breast, ovarian, prostate or pancreatic cancer because an inherited gene fault may be affecting your family, which could be one of the risk factors for you developing one of these cancers.

Remember too that if you have had a cervical screening test for cervical cancer this will not detect ovarian cancer.

For information about ovarian cancer treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and targeted therapies, visit our information pages.

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Support for you

       

If you would like more information on the sources and references for this page, please call us on 0800 008 7054.

If you would like to discuss anything about ovarian cancer, including ovarian cancer research and clinical trials, please phone our support line on 0800 008 7054 Monday to Friday between 10am and 5pm.

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Reviewed by Sean Kehoe MA (Ox) MD DCH FRCOG FHEA, Lawson Tait Professor of Gynaecological Cancer, University of Birmingham.

Senior Research Fellow, St Peter’s College Oxford.

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Disclaimer
Ovacome provides information and support. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information at the time of printing. The information we give is not a substitute for professional medical care. If you suspect you have cancer you should consult your doctor as quickly as possible. Ovacome cannot accept liability for any inaccuracy in linked sources. Rights reserved.


Date last updated May 2020
Date for review May 2022