Target Ovarian Cancer’s Nurse Advisers, Val Lang and Joan Idris, discuss six key things to know about the disease for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2019.
Target Ovarian Cancer is the UK’s leading ovarian cancer charity, here Lang and Idris discuss the vital aspects an individual needs to know about Ovarian Cancer.
We work to improve early diagnosis, fund life-saving research and provide much-needed support to women with ovarian cancer.
11 women die every day from ovarian cancer. It is the biggest killer of any of the gynaecological cancers and in the UK, awareness of the symptoms is low. Just 1 in 5 women can name bloating as one of the main symptoms. Early diagnosis saves lives, and Target Ovarian Cancer is raising awareness this March for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
1. Awareness of the symptoms is alarmingly low
Target Ovarian Cancer’s research shows that just 1 in 5 women in the UK can name bloating as a major symptom of ovarian cancer. Watch Target Ovarian Cancer’s new symptoms video to find out more (https://youtu.be/bBQrgYiKvN0). Some symptoms can be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms regularly, and they are not normal for you, it is important that you see your GP.
- 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).
It is unlikely that your symptoms are caused by a serious problem, but it is important to get checked out.
2. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late after delays in diagnosis, which makes it harder to treat. However, it is not always diagnosed late, and it is important for everyone to know that there are symptoms to look out for! Target Ovarian Cancer has launched a campaign, It’s time to TAKE OVAR, which aims to increase awareness, both among women and GPs, to ensure more women are diagnosed early.
3. A smear test does not detect ovarian cancer
One in three women mistakenly believes that a smear test will pick up ovarian cancer, but there is currently no screening programme for ovarian cancer, which is why it is important to know the symptoms and visit your GP if you are worried. More women die from ovarian cancer every year than all the other gynaecological cancers combined. It’s really important to go for your cervical screening (also known as a smear test) when you are called, but a smear test will not detect ovarian cancer.
4. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations (‘Angelina Jolie genes’) put you at increased risk of breast cancer AND ovarian cancer
15-20 per cent of ovarian cancers are caused by genetic mutations. The most common mutations are in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and these increase a woman’s risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. The risk of developing ovarian cancer is about two per cent for women generally, but rises to 30-50 per cent for women with a BRCA1 mutation and 10-25 per cent for women with a BRCA2 mutation. Remember that genetic mutations linked to ovarian cancer can be passed down on the mother’s and the father’s side of the family, so it’s important to know a family history on both sides.
5. What about talcum powder?
Various studies have shown a link between using talcum powder between the legs and ovarian cancer. Target Ovarian Cancer therefore generally advises against using talcum powder on this area of the body. However, it is important to note that the increased risk is very small. For someone without a family history of ovarian cancer the lifetime risk of developing the disease is two per cent. Put another way, that’s four women out of 200. For those that use talcum powder it could be five in 200.
6. What about HRT and the Pill?
Taken for 10 years or more, the combined contraceptive Pill actually lowers your risk of ovarian cancer.
On the other hand, taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can slightly increase your risk. This works out as approximately one extra case of ovarian cancer per 1,000 women using HRT. The additional risk of ovarian cancer reduces again five years after stopping HRT, and we say it’s always important to weigh up the benefits of HRT against potential risks by discussing this with your GP.
Anyone who is worried about the symptoms of ovarian cancer or any other aspect of the disease can get in touch with Target Ovarian Cancer’s nurse-led Support Line. Val and Joan provide confidential information, support and signposting for anyone affected by ovarian cancer.
Contact our Support Line on 020 7923 5475 (Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm) or get in touch online www.targetovariancancer.org.uk/supportline