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​Get savvy with the symptoms of ovarian cancer

NHS Lambeth CCG is urging women to get savvy with the symptoms of ovarian cancer during March.

Dr Adrian McLachlan, GP and Chair of NHS Lambeth CCG said: "Two-thirds of woman are diagnosed once ovarian cancer has already spread. Women can help GPs to reduce avoidable deaths from this serious condition, by getting savvy with the symptoms and seeing their GP if they are worried, and by reducing their risk of developing the disease where they can."

In Lambeth between 2010 and 2014 there was an average of 15 new ovarian cancer diagnoses for every 100,000 females per year. This is lower than the England average of 23.

Between 2010 and 2014 an average of 10 females in every 100,000 died from ovarian cancer each year in Lambeth. This is similar to the England average of 13.

According to ovarian cancer charity Target Ovarian Cancer, the symptoms of this disease include the following signs:

  • Persistent bloating - not bloating that comes and goes
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (that's your tummy and below)
  • Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)

Occasionally there can be other symptoms:

  • Changes in bowel habit (eg diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Unexplained weight loss

Any bleeding after the menopause should always be investigated by a GP.

Symptoms will also be:

  • Frequent – they usually happen more than 12 times a month
  • Persistent – they don't go away
  • New – they are not normal for you 

Women who are over the age of 50, who have experienced the menopause and have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer are most at risk from the condition. However, women of all ages can help reduce their risk of developing the disease by keeping weight to normal levels, stopping smoking and by avoiding the use of talcum powder in intimate areas.

Women who are worried about cancer, including ovarian, should see their GP as soon as possible. They may find it helpful to track their symptoms ahead of the appointment using the free ovarian cancer symptoms diary available from Target Ovarian Cancer. It will help the GP to know what symptoms you are having and how often, and if they are getting worse. Knowing your family cancer history will also be useful. 

During March, the Target Ovarian Cancer charity is running Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, to raise awareness and funds for this condition. Its research suggests that only three per cent of women are very confident of spotting a symptom of ovarian cancer.

Dr Adrian McLachlan  said: "Women need to know what to look for, so they go to their doctor as soon as possible to raise their concerns."