Doctors across the Fylde coast are supporting ovarian cancer awareness month (March) and encouraging local women to understand the signs and symptoms of the illness.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common form of cancer death in women, after breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the uterus (womb).  Many women incorrectly believe that a cervical smear test is able to detect ovarian cancer and that it has no symptoms.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly in early stages. This is because they are often the same as symptoms of other less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or pre-menstrual syndrome. Even so, the following symptoms are more frequent in women diagnosed with ovarian cancer:

  • Increased abdominal size and persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
  • Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous

Other symptoms can include unexpected weight loss, change in bowel habits and extreme fatigue.

Data from Public Health England shows that 97 per cent of women do not link persistent bloating with ovarian cancer.

Dr Tony Naughton, a GP and Clinical Chief Officer of NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age and most cases are found in women over 50. However, some types of this cancer do very rarely appear in much younger women; nobody is immune to it, which is why it’s crucial that more women are aware of the signs.

“Lots of women get symptoms like these from time to time, but the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are persistent. If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, which are not normal for you, it’s important that you see your doctor.

“While you’re waiting for your appointment, keep a diary to record how frequent your symptoms are. This will help your GP understand what might be causing them.”

Dr Amanda Doyle, a GP and Chief Clinical Officer of NHS Blackpool CCG, added: “Blackpool has high rates of cancer, which is why it is one of our health priorities. By ensuring more women are aware of ovarian cancer symptoms we can increase the likelihood of an early diagnosis should women develop this cancer. Women diagnosed in the earlier stages have a much greater chance of survival.

“If you think you may have any of the symptoms or are concerned about your ovarian cancer risk, you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.”

Women diagnosed in the early stages of ovarian cancer have a 90 per cent chance of surviving for more than five years but this reduces to 22 per cent when diagnosed in the later stages.

ENDS

For more information please contact the media team at NHS Staffordshire and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) by emailing jonathan.bridge@lancashirecsu.nhs.uk or call 01772 214213.