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Why ‘Silent Killer’ Ovarian Cancer Often Goes Undetected

March represents Ovarian Awareness Month, with organisers aiming to increase publicity over the cancer, which is often known as a ‘silent killer’. The reason behind its nickname is because it is usual for many symptoms of ovarian cancer to go undetected. This is why they can be easily confused with other conditions. The most common signs of ovarian cancer include feeling full quickly, losing appetite, stomachache, bloating, and needing to urinate more frequently. Sufferers might also have unexplained tiredness, weight loss or changes in their bowel habits. These can all be explained by other illnesses, such as a urinary tract infection, irritable bowel syndrome or hormones. However, the American Cancer Society advises: “If you have these symptoms more than 12 times a month, see your doctor so the problem can be found and treated if necessary.” It is because the symptoms can easily be mistaken for other ailments that around three-quarters of cases are diagnosed at stage three or beyond, reducing chances of survival. Gemma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 34 years old by chance while she was being treated for womb cancer. She experienced pain when the radiologist’s camera touched her ovary when counting follicles for egg freezing, which led to a referral for a CA125 blood test, which can detect ovarian cancer. However, this test is not routinely offered, despite being able to save womens’ lives. This is why Gemma wants CA125 tests to be standard procedure for those exhibiting symptoms, which would help diagnose many of the 7,500 women a year who are told they have ovarian cancer at an earlier stage.

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