In the latest ‘Let’s Talk’ series, we speak with Cancer Research UK about Ovarian Cancer. Get to know the statistics, risks and symptoms to save a life.
What is ovarian cancer and what causes it?
Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in the UK. It affects the ovaries, part of a woman’s reproductive system that are responsible for producing an egg each month in women of childbearing age.
As with most cancers, the risk of developing ovarian cancer increases as you get older. More than half the cases of ovarian cancer in the UK are diagnosed in women aged 65 and over.
The risk of developing cancer depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and things to do with our lifestyle, which we’re more able to control. It’s impossible to say what caused any individual case of cancer, but there are things that can affect the risk of it developing.
Aside from increasing age, other factors that increase the risk of ovarian cancer include smoking, and being overweight or obese. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) increases the risk of ovarian cancer, whereas the Pill reduces the risk, and having more children and breastfeeding also reduce the risk.
Other health conditions such as endometriosis, and a personal or family history of either breast or ovarian cancer may increase the risk.
Symptoms and when to seek medical advice
The best thing to do is to get to know your body and what’s normal for you. Being aware of how you usually feel can help you notice when something’s different.
If you spot any changes that are unusual or don’t go away, go to see your doctor.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include feeling full quickly, bloating, loss of appetite, pain or a lump in the tummy, irregular bleeding or bleeding after the menopause and/or problems peeing.
Most of the time, these symptoms are much more likely to be something less serious but it’s still better to get checked out. If it is cancer, finding it at an early stage gives a better chance of successful treatment.
How to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer
The most important risk factor for cancer is age. Cancer gets more common as we get older because there’s more time for damage to build up in our cells.
But prevention still matters – small changes we can make throughout our lives can add up, and make a big difference to our risk of developing cancer.
For ovarian cancer, a great way to reduce your risk is to not smoke and maintain a healthy weight. Not only will this help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, but it will reduce the risk of a range of different health conditions, including other types of cancer too.
Ovarian cancer statistics in the UK
- Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women. 1 in 52 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer during their lifetime.
- Around 7,400 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year, that’s 20 cases diagnosed every day.
- More than half (53%) of ovarian cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in females aged 65 and over. Incidence rates for ovarian cancer in the UK are highest in females aged 75-79
- More than a third (35%) of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, survive their disease for ten years or more
About Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research – our vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
Our pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. We have been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years. We support research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years. We receive no government funding for our life-saving research – every step made towards beating cancer relies on every donation made.