Never Overlook Subtle Ovarian Cancer Warning Signs, Emphasises Gynaecologist
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Ovarian cancer symptoms are often mistaken for other common conditions, and have earned it the nickname “silent killer.” With more than 75 per cent of cases diagnosed at later stages, early detection becomes paramount for improving survival rates.

To tackle this concern, Dr Susanna Unsworth, an NHS Community Gynaecologist, has offered essential insights into subtle ovarian cancer warning signs that one should never disregard.

The Prevalence of Ovarian Cancer

Each year, approximately 7,400 women in the UK receive a life-changing diagnosis of ovarian cancer, according to data from Cancer Research UK. Despite advances in medical science, ovarian cancer remains a formidable adversary, highlighting the importance of awareness and early detection.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Dr Unsworth underlines that ovarian cancer’s early warning signs can be subtle, and people might mistakenly attribute them to other common conditions. She advises women to be vigilant and consult their General Practitioner (GP) if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  1. Bloating: Persistent bloating that doesn’t subside within two weeks, occurs frequently without an obvious trigger, or doesn’t respond to usual dietary changes should raise concerns.
  2. Pain: One should not ignore new or unusual pain in the pelvis, back, or lower abdomen that doesn’t resolve quickly.
  3. Urinary Symptoms: Needing to pass urine more frequently, particularly at night, could indicate an underlying issue.
  4. Lump or Swelling: A healthcare professional should promptly examine any unusual lump or swelling in the lower abdomen or pelvis.

More Warning Signs

In addition to these symptoms, Dr. Unsworth notes that other warning signs of ovarian cancer include:

  • Loss of Appetite or Feeling Full Quickly
  • Persistent Indigestion
  • Change in Bowel Habits
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Persistent Fatigue
  • Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

While these symptoms can often overlap with other common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, Dr. Unsworth underscores that the crucial factor is whether the symptoms are new, different from one’s usual experiences, or unresponsive to typical treatments. If you experience any of these criteria, seek medical attention.

Consulting Your GP

When discussing these symptoms with a GP, Dr Unsworth suggests expressing concerns about ovarian cancer explicitly. This clarity aids doctors in assessing the situation thoroughly. During the examination, the GP will typically check the abdomen and may conduct a vaginal checkup to detect any ovarian swellings.

In the early stages of ovarian cancer, physical examinations might not reveal any palpable abnormalities because the disease has not yet caused them to develop.

Diagnostic Tests

To investigate further, your GP may order additional tests, including:

  • Pelvic Ultrasound: This imaging test can help identify any abnormalities in the pelvic area, including the ovaries.
  • Ca125 Blood Test: This test looks for elevated protein levels called Ca125, which can be a marker for ovarian cancer.
  • Other Blood Tests: Doctors may conduct these tests to evaluate inflammation or to identify potential causes of fatigue.
  • Stool Tests: Healthcare professionals may request stool samples from some patients to assess for bowel problems.

If any of these tests raise concerns, your GP will likely refer you to a gynaecology specialist for further evaluation. If all tests yield normal, your doctor can suggest alternative approaches to managing your symptoms, with the likelihood of ovarian cancer being extremely low.

While the symptoms of ovarian cancer can often masquerade as other conditions, early detection remains the most potent weapon in the battle against this deadly disease. Dr Susanna Unsworth’s advice is a crucial reminder that vigilance and timely consultation with a healthcare professional can make a difference.

Mahantesh Karoshi
Mahantesh Karoshi

I'm a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist and Women's Health Expert. I believe in educating my patients to contribute to achieving the best possible clinical and holistic outcomes. By taking this approach, I enable and empower my patients whilst addressing their issues and concerns. I run a private practice with an extremely high standard of professionalism. My patients are directly involved in their care and management in all stages. My approach to my patient's problems is built on dedication and passion, drawing on analytical thinking and my on-time honored reading, teaching medical professionals nationally and internationally.