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Millions of people across the UK are potentially misdiagnosing themselves with cancer, with online data showing that 47% of searches for an illness bring up at least one cancer result[1].

A recent study by Bupa UK found that 34% of Brits self-diagnose online because they fear they have cancer, with 17% of this number saying they suspected they had ovarian or cervical cancer.

This March for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Steve Iley, Medical Director at Bupa UK responds to some of the top questions that people ask online and clear up any confusion around these diseases.

A third (34%) of people self-diagnose online because they fear they have cancer, which can increase their anxiety and worry

This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Bupa UK’s Medical Director answers the most common questions that Brits ask online to clear up any confusion

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in British women[5]. It is a tumour (uncontrolled growth of cells) on or near your ovaries and in most cases; it develops in the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Can ovarian cancer be prevented?

Maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking will reduce your risk, as will taking the oral contraception pill. Studies have found that women who took an oral contraceptive pill for five or more years have almost a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those who never used the pill[6].

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be hard to spot, especially early on. In the early stages, you may not have any symptoms, and any you do have are usually ones that can be caused by other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).

The main symptoms of ovarian cancer are a swollen tummy and feeling bloated, feeling full quickly and loss of appetite, stomach or back pain or needing to go to the bathroom often or more urgently. If you experience any of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have ovarian cancer but it’s a good idea to see your GP to explore what may be causing the problem.

What causes ovarian cancer?

There are a number of factors that may put you at risk of ovarian cancer. The main ones are:

  • Age – most women diagnosed are postmenopausal
  • Family history and genes – you may be at increased risk if a close family member has had the condition, or if you have certain genes.  If you do have a family history, your GP may refer you to get genetic counsellor who can test to see if you have faulty genes.
  • Endometriosis – studies have found that this can slightly increase your risk[7]
  • Lifestyle factors – being obese or smoking puts you at greater risk

If you’re worried that you may be at risk of ovarian cancer for any reason, speak to your GP. They can refer you to a gynecologist if necessary.

Will ovarian cancer show up on a pap smear?

While the pap test is effective in detecting cervical cancer early on, it rarely can detect ovarian cancer, unless it’s in its more advanced stages. If you’re concerned, talk to your GP about the symptoms your experiencing and they’ll be able to advice on which tests you should take.

Can ovarian cancer be cured?

It really depends on how early you catch it. Like most cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed, the higher your chances are of survival. The aim of treatment, whether it’s surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, is help the body overcome it and relieve symptoms and control the cancer for as long as possible.



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