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As it Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, HMT is providing informative information on the disease, its symptoms and the treatments available.

Unfortunately, three quarters of UK women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer once the disease has already spread. More education is therefore needed to educate the public so they can identify the life-threatening condition in the early stages of its life.

What are Ovaries?

Your ovaries are a small pair of organs that are part of the female reproductive system. Your ovaries can contain an egg that is released once per month, and this process is known as ovulation.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common form of cancer in UK women, following breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the uterus (womb). The disease occurs when abnormal cells in a woman’s ovary begin to multiply, creating a tumour.

A malignant tumour can sadly be life-threatening, and so it is vital the disease is caught in the early stages of its life. Some tumours may grow large enough to engulf a person’s ovaries, and there is a risk the cancer could spread to other areas of the body.

Not all tumours are cancerous, and these are known as benign tumours. There is therefore no risk that the tumour will extend to other areas of the body. While a person may require surgery to remove the tumour, it will very rarely be life-threatening.

There are various types of ovarian cancer that can affect different parts of the ovaries. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type, and will affect the surface layer of t a person’s ovaries

What is the Cause of Ovarian Cancer?

The cause of ovarian cancer is still unknown. Certain factors may, however, increase a woman’s chance of developing the disease, including ageing, the number of eggs released and whether they have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

You should book an appointment with your GP if you are suffering from one or more of the following symptoms:

• Persistent bloating

• Persistent stomach pain

• Difficulty eating food or feeling full too quickly

• An increased need to urinate

• Back pain

• Constant tiredness

• Bowel habit changes – eg. diarrhoea or constipation

The above symptoms may not be a cause of ovarian cancer, and could be a result of another condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or an ovarian cyst. Whatever the cause, please contact your GP as soon as possible to identify your symptoms.

How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a number of tests to identify if you have ovarian cancer, including a

• physical examination

• CA125 blood test

• Pelvis ultrasound scan

What are the Available Treatment Options?

Once a person is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a GP or oncologist will discuss the best course of treatment for a patient’s needs. The treatment may potentially involve surgery followed by chemotherapy, but some women may require surgery ahead of chemotherapy, as every woman’s journey will be different. The treatment will also be determined by the ovarian cancer diagnosis.

The outlook for ovarian cancer will most likely be determined by the stage of the disease. Sadly, women who are diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer may have a poor survival rate. It is therefore vital to consult a GP if you are suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned above. You should also book a medical screening if you have family medical history or a gene fault that could result in you developing the condition.