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, and that’s not normal for you, it’s important that you see your GP. It’s unlikely that your symptoms are caused by a serious problem, but it’s important that you get checked.
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Tests and diagnosis
The advice to GPs is to carry out tests (beginning with a CA125 blood test) if they experience any of the above symptoms on a persistent or frequent basis, particularly more than 12 times a month. This is especially the case if women are over 50 years old. The CA125 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 has clear guidance on the ‘recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer’, as well as a quality standard that establishes timescales for diagnostic tests.
If you’re 50 or over and have symptoms that are new for you that are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your GP should offer you tests to check for ovarian cancer. That’s because it’s 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’s important to return and explain this to your doctor – you know your body better than anyone.