Ovarian cancer awareness

13th February 2020 Clinical Negligence

March 2020 marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the UK – an important initiative given that ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women, resulting in over 4000 deaths per year.

Awareness of this ‘silent killer’ is particularly important given that the early symptoms are often disregarded as a common digestive issue, leading to many cases being missed by health professionals. The early symptoms are as follows:

-       Stomach pain

-       Persistent bloating/nausea

-       Feeling full more quickly

-       Frequent urination

-       Fatigue

As these symptoms can indicate many other minor conditions, follow up is often not provided allowing tumours, cysts and masses to grow and for the cancer to spread to other areas in the body. This will eventually lead to symptoms such as pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting, swelling and abnormal bleeding, resulting in a diagnosis being made when the cancer has reached a far more advanced stage.

If ovarian cancer is caught whilst still at Stage 1, before it has begun to grow or spread, the chances of survival can be as high as 95%. However, given that so many cases are missed or go undetected, the survival rate in the UK beyond 5 years is only 35%, with only one in three cases picked up at Stage 1.

There is some light on the horizon with scientists recently discovering a new subtype of cell found in the fallopian tube. They believe this discovery may bring them closer to discovering the origin of ovarian cancers which could lead to earlier detection and prevention. However, for the time being, patients must continue to rely on relatively vague symptoms and warning signs in order to receive a crucial early diagnosis.

That being said, medical professionals should always have ovarian cancer in mind when considering female patients presenting with the symptoms listed above. All too often, patients are disregarded and turned away with a diagnosis of IBS, urinary tract infection, diverticulitis and many others when a few further investigations could lead to an early diagnosis and a hugely improved prognosis.    

If you have been affected by a delayed diagnosis of ovarian cancer please contact us and a member of our experienced clinical negligence team will be happy to advise you.

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Katy Coleman is a Paralegal located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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