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March 2020 is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and at Pryers, we are focusing on raising awareness of the importance of early detection and how much difference it can have to the outcome for women.

Every year, more than 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and over 4000 women die from the disease. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late, as symptoms are hard to spot. Inherited faults in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes dramatically increase a woman’s chances of developing ovarian cancer which is why early detection is crucial to achieving the best possible outcome.

When a woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, her chance of surviving ovarian cancer for five years or more doubles from just 46% to more than 90%.

Sadly, we often speak to clients who are diagnosed late, which means that their chances of making a full recovery are much lower often, having devastating consequences for family and loved ones.

It is vital that women are aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and seek out investigations at the earliest possible time.

Signs and Symptoms

  • According to the NHS Guidance, the following signs and symptoms should prompt investigation:
  • The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
  • feeling constantly bloated
  • a swollen tummy
  • discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
  • feeling full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite
  • needing to pee more often or more urgently than usual

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • persistent indigestion or feeling sick
  • pain during sex
  • a change in your bowel habits
  • back pain
  • vaginal bleeding (particularly bleeding after the menopause)
  • feeling tired all the time
  • unintentional weight loss

When to see a GP

NHS Guidance suggests that you should see a GP if:

  • you have been feeling bloated, particularly more than 12 times a month
  • you have other symptoms of ovarian cancer that will not go away – especially if you’re over 50 or have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, as you may be at a higher risk

Investigations

Your GP should talk to you about your symptoms and if the GP has any cause for concern they can arrange for you to be referred to hospital for various tests such as blood tests, an ultrasound scan and if necessary, a CT scan, biopsy and laparoscopy (where a camera is inserted into the body to check the condition of the ovaries).

With early diagnosis, many patients go on to have successful surgery to remove either the ovaries alone or a full hysterectomy (removal of the ovaries, womb and momentum) which is usually combined with a course of chemotherapy.

Sadly, where detection is late, the patient may have no choice as to the treatment they receive and are faced with the prospect of having to receive palliative or end of life care.

Target Ovarian Cancer is a charity that campaigns to raise awareness of this condition and to influence politicians and decision-makers across the UK to transform awareness, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

However, it is important that individuals are also alert and aware to the symptoms and in any situation where you have concerns that your GP has not fully investigated symptoms that give you cause for concern do not give up, ensure that you are listened to and if necessary, request a second opinion.

Lisa Swales, a Partner at Pryers Solicitors

By Lisa Swales,
Partner

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