Ovarian cancer: The importance of early diagnosis


World Ovarian Cancer Day is the initiative of the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition (WOCC) and occurs every year on 8 May. The objective of the day is to raise awareness, funding and support for all of the women around the world living with ovarian cancer, along with their families and patient support organisations.

To help raise awareness of this often fatal disease, Porterhouse Medical shares some facts about ovarian cancer and some steps to aid early detection.

Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all female cancers

Each year, over 230,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ambiguity of symptoms often results in ovarian cancer being confused with other, less serious disorders. As a result, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late, when the disease has already spread, leaving many women with a poor prognosis. With around 65% of cases of ovarian cancer resulting in death each year and this expected to increase to 70% by 2035, ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all female cancers.

Awareness can help with early detection

Currently, there is no screening programme in the UK for ovarian cancer because there is no reliable detection test that picks it up at an early stage. This leads to further delays in diagnosis and treatment. However, by spreading awareness, we can ensure that women are well informed and can promptly report any unusual symptoms to their GPs.

The ovarian cancer support network Ovacome has devised the mnemonic ‘BEAT’ to help women remember when they should seek medical advice:

• Bloating that does not come and go
• Eating less and feeling full more quickly
• Abdominal pain
• Toilet changes in urinary or bowel habits

Other symptoms can include unexplained tiredness, weight loss and vaginal bleeding.

The main difference between ovarian cancer and other possible disorders is the persistence and gradual worsening of symptoms. Experiencing any of the above symptoms for most days in a period of 3 weeks is a common sign of ovarian cancer.

Knowing the risk factors

Risk factors for ovarian cancer:

• Age – ovarian cancer is common in women aged 50–79 years
• Family history – an individual is at high risk of developing ovarian cancer if they have a family history of ovarian, breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer
• Genetic abnormalities – abnormalities in the BRCA1and BRCA2genes are linked to a high risk of developing ovarian cancer
• Endometriosis – women with this condition, in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it, are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer\
• Reproductive history – woman who have not had a full-term pregnancy may be at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who have because of an increased number of ovulation cycles
• Hormone replacement therapy- long-term hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of developing ovarian cancer

Women that are concerned about any of the above risk factors are encouraged to speak to their GPs. Women with a family history of cancer may be eligible for genetic counselling and/or genetic screening. Women eligible for genetic counselling have the option to meet with a genetics specialist, who will listen to and advise on concerns. The specialist can also draw up a family tree and use this to assess a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Possible protective factors:

•Contraceptive pill – women who take the combined contraceptive pill for 5 years or more can almost halve their risk of developing ovarian cancer
•Hysterectomy and/or having fallopian tubes tied – removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes reduces the risk of ovarian cancer; although, a rare form of ovarian cancer can develop in the peritoneal cavity
•Pregnancy and breastfeeding – full-term pregnancies and breastfeeding reduce the number of ovulatory cycles a woman experiences, decreasing her risk of developing ovarian cancer


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About the Porterhouse Medical Group

Porterhouse Medical provides scientific and medical insights and communication services to the pharmaceutical industry across the globe, with a focus on solutions that can have a significant and measurable impact on the lives of healthcare professionals and patients. 

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