Beat ovarian cancer: Know the symptoms

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Only 3% of UK women feel very confident about spotting a symptom of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer affects almost 7,000 women a year - making it relatively low in comparison with other cancers. However, survival rates are also fairly low - around 4,400 women die from it each year. The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is just 46%.

Ovarian cancer is sometimes nicknamed the 'silent killer' - but symptoms do exist, it's just that they're not very well known.

Target Ovarian Cancer have launched their Start Making Noise campaign to help raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. They ask the following questions...

Bloated tummy?
Need to wee more?
Tummy pain?
Always feeling full?

If you experience any of these symptoms frequently (more than 12 times a month), see your GP. It can run in families, so let your doctor know if there are two or more cases of ovarian or breast cancer in your close family.

Find out more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer by watching Target Ovarian Cancer's short video:

What should I do if I'm worried?

As with anything, if you're worried the first thing you should do is speak to your GP. The key is to not ignore your symptoms and be persistent if you think something is wrong.

There's no routine screening for ovarian cancer so your doctor might give you an internal exam, refer you to a gynecologist or refer you for a scan if they think you need it.

Remember, ovarian cancer is rare - so don't panic if you're experiencing some of these symptoms. It's likely that something else is causing them, but it's important to get ovarian cancer ruled out.

"I've been giving the all clear after ovarian cancer."



I hadn't got a clue there was anything wrong with me when I was diagnosed in 2002. I was on holiday in Tunisia with my best friend Jackie when I got serious stomach ache. I was rushed to hospital where doctors told me my appendix had ruptured causing peritonitis. They had no choice but to operate.

When I woke up, doctors had removed my appendix - and my right ovary. I'd had a tumour on it, the result of ovarian cancer. I was so shocked, especially as I'd had no idea there was anything wrong with me. I'd said to Jackie just a few days earlier that I felt full even though I hadn't eaten anything. I know now that is one of the signs but at the time, it hardly seemed worth mentioning.

Back in the UK, doctors also found a 10cm tumour on my left ovary. They told me I had Stage 3 cancer, with Stage 4 being the worst kind. I had another operation to remove that tumour and had a full hysterectomy at the same time. I was 38 and didn't have children but I understood it had to happen to save my life.

The op was successful but I was warned that even with chemo, I might not make it, especially when a biopsy showed the cancer had spread to my liver and bowel. I had 9 cycles of chemo in all, lost my hair and felt dreadful. Even after that, I was told the cancer often comes back within 2 years.

But I kept positive and made it past then. I even kept working as a social worker. It's been a tough few years but in July 2007, I reached the five-year mark and was finally discharged from hospital with the all-clear. Even now I can hardly believe it and I'd like to give hope to other women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Continued below...

Things to look out for are feeling full when you haven't eaten or a swollen stomach. Basically, know what's normal for you and don't be scared to ask a doctor if you're worried about something. It could save your life.
Paula Larratt, 44, is a social worker from Kettering, Northamptonshire

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