OVARIAN CANCER: Becoming aware of ovarian cancer symptoms could save your life.
OVARIAN CANCER: Becoming aware of ovarian cancer symptoms could save your life.

Ovarian cancer: Know the warning signs

WOMEN aged 50 and over are more susceptible to ovarian cancer as they struggle to understand the early symptoms of the deadly disease.

About 225 Australian women aged 50 and over will be diagnosed with the disease annually. Across this number the highest average numbers are in ages 60 to 64 (31) and 65 to 69 (35).

The causes of the disease are still unknown, but for those that have it detected early, survival up to five years is possible. So, knowing the signs and symptoms is critical.

Symptoms may include -

  • Increased abdominal size or bloating.
  • Unexplained abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss.
  • Back pain.
  • Indigestion.
  • Nausea.
  • Excessive fatigue.

While many diagnosed women don't have any known risk factors, the Ovarian Cancer Australia list several factors that my increase a women's risk of developing this cancer -

  • Age - the risk increases with age. It is most common for women over 50 who have stopped menstruating.
  • Genetics and family history. 
  • Child-bearing history. 
  • Endometriosis.
  • Lifestyle factors.
  • Hormonal factors.

Ovarian cancer is diagnosed using one or more of the following methods -

  • Physical examination of abdomen and an internal vaginal examination.
  • Blood test.
  • Imaging scan.
  • Ultrasound.
  • CT scan.
  • PET scan.
  • Colonoscopy.

Cancer Council Queensland chief executive officer Chris McMillan said symptoms can be vague and similar to common illnesses, but when these symptoms are new, or have persisted for a few weeks, women should make an appointment with their general practitioner.

"If detected early, between 80 and 100 per cent of women diagnosed will survive at least five years," Ms McMillan said.

"We know that ovarian cancer is one of the hardest cancers to detect as symptoms can be vague and too often the cancer has spread before it is picked up.

"While five-year survival rates for uterine cancer, the most common gynaecological cancer, is around 84 per cent in Queensland, ovarian cancer survival rates are significantly lower at 48 per cent, and need improving." 

For more information, contact your GP or call the Cancer Council on 13 1120 and Ovarian Cancer Australia on 1 300 660334.

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