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It's Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Here's What to Look Out For

This month at Chemist.co.uk, we're supporting Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Ovarian cancer affects 25,000 women in the UK and those it affects are mostly women and people with ovaries over the age of 50 who have begun experiencing signs of the menopause. That said, the illness can occur in younger women and people with ovaries, too, especially if there is a genetic link to the disease within the family.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month exists to help everyone understand the symptoms of the disease, and to aid in early diagnosis. For many people, ovarian cancer is not something they are aware of and it remains one of the most misunderstood cancers affecting thousands of people every single year. That's why it's important to look out for the symptoms...

Understanding the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Unlike many cancers, ovarian cancer’s symptoms are usually targeted to the area of the body where the ovaries sit – low down in the abdomen, roughly around your appendix area and in the same place on the opposite side.

The tell-tale signs of ovarian cancer in earlier stages can be confused with the symptoms of IBS, but if they are bothering you, it is important to visit your doctor or GP as soon as possible to make sure.

Common symptoms to keep a check on include:

  • feeling bloated or as though you have trapped wind
  • a swollen stomach
  • discomfort in pelvic area and/or throughout the lower abdomen
  • A loss of appetite or a feeling of fullness
  • frequently needing the bathroom.

What causes ovarian cancer?

Despite decades of research, the exact causes of ovarian cancer, like many other cancers, is unknown.

There are certain things that increase the risk of developing it however, and knowing what they are can help you to keep a close eye on your health for any changes. They include:

  • Being aged 50 or over
  • If you have relatives who have had breast, cervical or ovarian cancer
  • Using HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.

While these things can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer, it’s also important to remember that the risk is still very small.

Genetic Testing

If you are at risk of developing hereditary ovarian cancer, there is a genetic test you can take to calculate your risk of developing ovarian cancer. This is available from your doctor, and is much the same as having a blood test.

Your blood will be checked for 'gene mutations' and you will find out your results in around six to 10 weeks. For more information visit the Target Ovarian Cancer website.

Smear Tests Don't Diagnose Ovarian Cancer

While smear tests are essential for diagnosing the cell changes that indicate early stages of cervical cancer and diagnosing HPV, they cannot diagnose ovarian cancer.

This common misconception means that one in five women do not visit their doctor with ovarian cancer symptoms, or ask for genetic testing. It's vital, therefore, that you seek professional guidance from your GP if you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer or if you are genetically at risk.

For more information on ovarian cancer and all the support available to you, head to www.targetovariancancer.org.uk






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