There are around 7400 new Ovarian Cancer cases in the UK every year. It is actually currently the 6th most common type of cancer in the UK.
If ovarian cancer is detected early however, the survival rate is about 90 percent. According to specialists, one early stage symptom to look out for is involuntary leaking. One research study highlights the importance of keeping an eye out for incontinence symptoms. Ovarian Cancer researcher Barbara P Yawn suggests that women and their Doctors should be particularly alert to incontinence and abdominal pain that doesn’t improve with treatment. She states, “ovarian cancer must be considered. If the symptoms persist with no clear reason, you need to look further.”
The relationship between incontinence and other diseases is often overlooked, as many women simply think of it as a sign of ageing. Similarly, problems such as constipation are often also ignored among most individuals, thought to be related to another health problem such as a food intolerance.
Fact: Ovarian Cancer occurs in 1 out of 70 Women
Why is Urinary Incontinence a Sign of Ovarian Cancer?
Incontinence is most likely due to the tumour pressing on the bladder and causing increased pressure within the abdomen. This prompts urine loss. In one study, researchers reviewed medical records for 107 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The results of the study found that 18% of the women had urinary symptoms that proceeded to get worse over 2 or 3 weeks. Lead researcher Barbara P.Yawn outlines that the speed of this progression is the tell-tale sign of ovarian cancer. She asserts, “incontinence usually happens gradually over several years, not that quickly”. For sudden onset urinary incontinence, she urges to always visit a Doctor immediately.
What are the Other Signs of Ovarian Cancer?
In addition to incontinence symptoms, you should also look for the following symptoms:
- Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner
- Abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea
- Pressure in the pelvis or lower back
- A more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation
- Changes in bowel movements
- Increased abdominal girth
- Tiredness or low energy
- Postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
- Changes in menstruation
- Unexplained change in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Getting a Diagnosis
Doctor Yawn advises, “Be persistent. Do not quit until you have a definite diagnosis”. She asserts that it is vital to pay attention to your body and not ignore the symptoms. Liz shared her story of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She shares, “it began with the feeling that something just wasn’t quite right. I kept taking indigestion remedies, but eventually I thought I’d better go to the GP and get it checked out.” After a scan and an appointment with a gynaecologist, she was told that she had cysts on her ovaries and would need to undergo laparoscopy.
If you visit your Doctor with worries of having ovarian cancer, they will likely do a pelvic exam to check for an enlarged ovary or signs of fluid in the abdomen. If they do suspect you have ovarian cancer based on your symptoms and exam, they will order some further tests.
Ensure you explain your symptoms and concerns. It can be useful to create a symptoms diary in the run up to your appointment if you can. This includes writing down any symptoms you have throughout the day, and how often these occur. If you feel like your symptoms are not being taken seriously, you can make an appointment to see another GP at your Doctors. You can also look for your local walk in centre, or take someone with you to an appointment for support.