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Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour in one or both ovaries.  Most early ovarian tumours are difficult to diagnose. Prompt attention to symptoms can improve the rates of early detection and the successful outcome of treatment.

Have I got any signs of ovarian cancer?

There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, so all women need to be aware of the symptoms.

  • Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount
  • Needing to urinate often or urgently
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Lower back pain
  • Indigestion or nausea
  • Bleeding after menopause or in-between periods
  • Pain during sex or bleeding after

Am I at risk of ovarian cancer?

Some factors that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer include:

  • age (risk increases for women over 50)
  • family history of ovarian, breast and bowel cancer.
  • changes in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • early onset of periods (before 12 years) and late menopause
  • women who have not had children or had their first child after the age of 35
  • using oestrogen only hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment.

Some factors that may reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer include using the oral contraceptive pill for several years, having your fallopian tubes tied (or removed), having children before the age of 35 and breastfeeding.

How will I get tested?

Your GP will assess your symptoms, perform a physical examination and may request

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • Biopsy
  • Laparoscopy or laparotomy to collect tissue samples for testing.

What happens next?

Your GP will refer you to a specialist.

Treatment options will be discussed with you and will depend on the stage of the cancer.  These options include

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapies
  • Radiation
  • Symptom management

Last updated: 3 June 2021