Symptoms are frequent (they usually happen more than 12 times a month) and persistent, and include:
- Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
- Difficulty eating/feeling full
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Needing to wee more urgently or more often
Other symptoms can include unexpected weight loss, change in bowel habits, and extreme fatigue.
If you regularly experience any of these symptoms, which are not normal for you, it is important that you see your GP. It is unlikely that your symptoms are caused by a serious problem, but it is important to be checked out.
Tests and diagnosis
GPs are now instructed to carry out tests (beginning with a CA125 blood test) in women especially over the age of 50, if they experience any of the above symptoms on a persistent or frequent basis, particularly more than 12 times a month. This should be followed by an abdominal/pelvic ultrasound if the blood tests are abnormal or symptoms persist.
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellent (NICE) now have clear guidance on the‘recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer’, as well as a quality standard which establishes timescales for diagnostic tests.
If you are 50 or over and have symptoms that are new for you which are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your GP should offer you tests to check for ovarian cancer. That is because it is unusual for a woman of this age to develop IBS if they have not had it before.
You should also mention if there are two or more cases of ovarian or breast cancer in your close family, as ovarian cancer can sometimes run in families.
If you have already visited your GP and the symptoms continue or worsen, it is important to return and explain this to your doctor – you know your body better than anyone.