Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

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02 March, 2020

March is ovarian cancer awareness month and here at Forbes we understand the importance of early diagnosis. In the UK the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is below the European average.

The common symptoms of ovarian cancer included on the NHS website are:

  • feeling constantly bloated;
  • a swollen tummy;
  • discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area;
  • feeling full quickly when eating;
  • needing to urinate more often than usual.

The concern is that these symptoms are not always easy to recognise as they are similar to symptoms for other more common conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is why 41% of women report having to visit their GP 3 times or more before being referred for tests. However, the increased frequency and persistency of the symptoms are what help to distinguish between ovarian cancer and other conditions.

Cancer Research UK reports each year in the UK there are approximately 7,500 cases of ovarian cancer. When diagnosed at its earliest stage, 93% of people with ovarian cancer often survive their disease for five years or more, compared with 13% when the disease is diagnosed at the latest stage.

The 4 main stages of ovarian cancer are:

Stage 1: the cancer only affects 1, or both ovaries

Stage 2: the cancer has spread from the ovary and into the pelvis or womb

Stage 3: the cancer has spread to the lining of the tummy, the surface of the bowel or to the lymph glands in the pelvis or tummy

Stage 4: the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs

The earlier the ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of a cure. But often it's not recognised until it's already spread, and a cure is not possible, and it makes any treatment more challenging. The aim would be to relieve symptoms and control the cancer for as long as possible. Even after successful treatment, there's a high chance the cancer will come back within a few years. The overall 5-year survival rate is 46% and the 10-year survival rate is 35%.

The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on how far the cancer has spread and general health. The main treatments include:

  • surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible. This will often involve removing both ovaries, the womb and the fallopian tubes;
  • chemotherapy, which is usually used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells but is occasionally used before surgery to shrink the cancer.

There are certain things that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer, such as:

  • being over 50 years of age. Most cases will occur in women who have been through the menopause;
  • if there is a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, which could indicate an inherited gene that increase your cancer risk;
  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT), although any increase in cancer risk is likely to be very small;
  • endometriosis, which is a condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside the womb;
  • being overweight;
  • smoking;
  • lack of exercise;
  • exposure to asbestos.

In our previous article of November last year, The NHS and the General Election, we looked at the NHS not meeting their targets in relation to starting cancer treatments and referral times. These delays will only hinder diagnosis, survivability and treatment of ovarian cancer, amongst others. With the new budget due on 11th March 2020, let's hope the government increase the funding for the Department of Health and Social Care to help ease the current pressures of the NHS and allow them to deliver better care.

If you believe you have suffered from a delayed diagnosis of ovarian cancer despite having visited a medical health professional with the symptoms, please get in touch with our specialist clinical negligence team on 01254 872 111 who can talk you through the possibility of making a claim.

There are also a number of organisations that are raising awareness of ovarian cancers and can offer support and information to women diagnosed. These include:

For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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