Opinion: Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer
MOST women would struggle to name a single symptom of ovarian cancer.
That's why women in Yorkshire and the Humber region are being urged to look out for the signs, particularly those over 50 or who have been through menopause.
This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and doctors in the region want to make people aware of the symptoms of the condition, as many women confuse ovarian cancer with cervical cancer.
The early symptoms to look out for are pain in the pelvis and lower stomach, persistent bloating that does not come and go, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous.
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These symptoms may be familiar to most women but the difference with ovarian cancer is that symptoms are persistent, frequent – happen more than 12 times a month – and new to you.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly in the early stages of the disease.
They are often the same as the symptoms of other less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or pre-menstrual syndrome, but if you feel there is something wrong, you should visit your GP as soon as possible.
When it comes to cancer of any kind, the earlier it is detected, the better chance the patient has of making a full recovery.
Research into ovarian cancer has found that the condition may be linked to being overweight or obese.
Losing weight through exercise, and having a balanced diet, may help to lower your risk of ovarian cancer, as well as other types of cancer.
Cancer of the ovary affects more than 6,500 women in the UK each year.
It is the fifth most common cancer among women, after breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the uterus (womb).
Ovarian cancer is most common in women who have had the menopause (usually over the age of 45) but it can affect women of any age.
There are a number of factors that might increase risk of developing ovarian cancer:
Family History – If you have two or more close relatives (mother, sister or daughter) who developed ovarian cancer or breast cancer, you may be at higher risk of developing the condition.
Age – Your risk of ovarian cancer increases with age and most cases of ovarian cancer occur after the menopause.
Fertility and egg release – Starting your periods early or having a late menopause slightly increases your risk of ovarian cancer.
HRT – Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have been shown to have a small increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Endometriosis may increase your risk of ovarian cancer.
For more information on ovarian cancer, visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk