Ovarian Cancer

By: Dr. Rachel MacLachlan

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Awareness in Australia is a nationwide campaign to make women and their families more aware of this devastating condition and the symptoms associated with it.

What is it?

Ovarian cancer is a cancer of the ovaries, the egg-producing organs in females, which are found in the pelvis.

How common is it?

  • Ovarian cancer affects 1 out of 80 Australian women
  • 60% of cases are diagnosed in women over 60
  • About 1500 cases are diagnosed each year
  • 4 new cases diagnosed each day

 What are the symptoms?

The symptoms can be hard to spot as they can occur in a lot of women at some stage in their life. There are 4 main symptoms that most ovarian cancer patients have:

  • Abdominal and pelvic pain
  • Feeling bloated/swollen tummy
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount
  • Increased urination

These can occur in other conditions but if they are happening often, then you should seek an assessment from your GP. Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you will have ovarian cancer, but it should prompt a visit to see your doctor. Other symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Bleeding after the menopause
  • Bleeding in-between periods
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Pain having sex
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Nausea

How is ovarian cancer tested for?

Assessing a patient will include:

  • Examination – abdominal, internal (pelvic) examination and sometimes a speculum examination depending on the symptoms. This is like having a pap smear done.
  • Blood test – you will be tested for general bloods such as blood count and liver and kidney function. There are other blood tests that can be abnormal in ovarian cancer – these are called tumour markers.
  • Ultrasound scan – this scan is done to have a look at your ovaries and assess their appearance and look for any lumps/masses.

 What happens if a possible cancer is found?

The next step includes an urgent referral to a gynaecologist – either in a public hospital or privately, depending on the patient’s individual preferences. The gynaecologist will do an assessment and decide with the patient a course of treatment depending on the findings and the patient’s wishes. It can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of these treatments.

If you have any concerns about anything written in this article, or if you are experiencing any of these symptoms listed above, please make an appointment to see a GP. The important thing is to detect cancer early for the best possible outcome.

Content attributed to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and Ovarian Cancer Australia

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Medical Centre, or any other provider within the clinic.


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