What are the signs of ovarian cancer?
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Among women in the UK ovarian cancer is the sixth biggest cause of cancer deaths, with more than 4,000 every year. It occurs when abnormal cells in the ovary grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way, eventually forming a tumour. If caught early enough it can be possible to prevent it spreading to other areas of the body.
However, it can be tricky to spot the signs quickly, experts have warned, due to the nature of the symptoms.
Valentina Milanova, the founder of women’s health research company Daye, explained: “Ovarian cancer accounts for the highest number of gynae cancer-related deaths, often referred to as ‘the silent killer’.
“When present, symptoms can be hard to detect as they commonly overlap with other conditions.”
One such symptom is “persistent” bloating in the belly.
However, this is something that could easily be mistaken for other issues such as having eaten too much, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Ms Milanova said: “Persistent belly bloating is the symptom reported most frequently.
“This is due to the fact that the most common way the cancer spreads is through the peritoneal cavity.
“Cancer cells can also block lymph drainage, causing fluid build-up.”
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Doctor Kimya Tarr, senior digital health manager at Babylon Health, added: “It’s important to note that women can experience bloating for reasons that are unrelated to ovarian cancer, such as consuming food and drinks that are gassy, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
“Some women also feel bloated around the time of their period.”
Ms Milanova shared four other symptoms of ovarian cancer to look for.
“Abdominal, back or pelvic pain are also common symptoms,” she said.
Dr Tarr also warned of pain or tenderness in the tummy or area between the hips as a potential sign of ovarian cancer among other problems.
She said: “Common causes include constipation or IBS, urinary tract infections (UTIs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“People often experience pelvic pain during their period. Ovarian cysts or endometriosis can also cause pelvic pain.”
“The pain itself varies from person to person, with some reporting it feeling similar to menstrual cramps.”
Changes to periods
Ms Milanova said: “Changes to menstrual cycles, such as irregular bleeding, spotting or vaginal bleeding after menopause, are also symptoms, albeit a less common ones.”
Signs when on the toilet
“Changes in one’s bathroom habits is a common sign, with one in five people with ovarian cancer reporting changes in their bowel and bladder habits,” Ms Milanova said.
Feeling full very quickly or lack of appetite
She added: “This is due to the fluid build-up, which puts pressure on the stomach causing a person to feel full.”
If you are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer you should see your GP.
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