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Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: understanding symptoms and improving diagnoses

Posted: 31/03/2020

March 2020 is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and over the course of the month, charities have been campaigning to raise the profile of ovarian cancer, increase awareness amongst women and GPs of the typical signs and symptoms, and train GPs in early diagnosis as well as fundraising for life-saving treatment and research.

Each year in the UK there are around 7,500 cases and 4,100 deaths from ovarian cancer. The disease is more common in, but not exclusive to, post-menopausal women.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often the same as those of other less serious conditions and because of this, delays in diagnosis are common - 41% of women affected by the disease reported having to visit their GP three or more times before being referred for diagnostic tests. This is compounded by the fact that the average GP will only see one case of ovarian cancer every five years. If a women is diagnosed whilst the disease is in the early stages it is more likely she will respond to treatment. Sadly, most women are only diagnosed after the disease has already spread, making treatment much more challenging.

What are the symptoms?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that GPs should carry out tests (including blood tests) for women, especially those over 50, who report the following symptoms on a frequent or persistent basis (more than 12 times a month):

  • feeling constantly bloated;
  • swollen abdomen;
  • abdominal and/or pelvic discomfort;
  • feeling full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite; and
  • needing to urinate more often or more urgently than usual.

If you are worried about possible symptoms, ovarian cancer charity Ovacome suggests recording any potential symptoms in a symptom diary (Ovacome BEAT Symptom Tracker) so that you can discuss these in more detail with your GP.

If you need help

The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper has experience of acting for clients with ovarian and other cancers where there have been failures in the care provided, including delay in diagnosis.

Specialist members of the team are happy to provide initial advice and an informal, no obligation conversation with anyone who has concerns about the care they have received.

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