It’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) is highlighting the key signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and urging women to talk to their GP if they think something is wrong.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, said: “Cancer of the ovary affects over 180 women each year in Northern Ireland and is more common in women over the age of 50.
“Too often it is diagnosed late, when treatment options may be limited. We would like women to be aware of the early symptoms and to see their doctor if these occur. The earlier a woman with ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the more likely she is to have a better outcome.”
Particularly for women over the age of 50, the symptoms to be aware of include:
- persistent bloating for three weeks or more;
- persistent pelvic and abdominal pain;
- difficulty eating or feeling full quickly;
- needing to pee urgently or more frequently than normal;
- changes in bowel habit;
- extreme fatigue (feeling very tired);
- unexplained weight loss.
Dr McCarthy continued: “If women do experience these symptoms it is best for them to seek advice from their general practitioner.
“Some of symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to those seen in more common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), therefore a patient’s GP may wish to undertake a simple blood test which helps provide more information on the possible underlying condition.
“With advances in treatment and care over recent years, there is often a lot that can be done to tackle cancer when it appears, but early detection and treatment are essential – know your own body, look out for any changes and speak to your doctor if something isn’t right.”
The PHA has developed a comprehensive website at www.becancerawareni.info which provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts to recommended sources of support or further information.