Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer, or cancer of the ovaries, is one of the most common types of cancer in women.
The ovaries are a pair of small organs located low in the pelvis that are connected to the womb and store a woman’s supply of eggs.

About 1 in every 50 (2% of) women in the UK develops ovarian cancer during her lifetime. Ovarian cancer can also affect trans men and people assigned female at birth. The causes of ovarian cancer are not yet completely understood.

Meet the Gynaecology team.

Am I at risk?

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. But some things may increase a woman’s risk of getting it, such as:

  •  Age – risk increases with age. More than half of ovarian cancers occur in people over the age of 65.
  • Hormonal factors – doctors think that the number of times an ovary releases an egg may be linked to ovarian cancer risk. Ovarian cancer is more common in people who have ovulated more times.
  • a family history of ovarian or breast cancer
  •  hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – taking HRT after the menopause can slightly increase the risk.
  • Breast cancer – If you have had breast cancer you may be more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
  •  endometriosis – having this slightly increases the risk
  •  being overweight
  •  smoking

For more information on the risk factors for ovarian cancer, please follow this link.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer often causes symptoms that are similar to other more common and less serious conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This can make it difficult to diagnose early, before the cancer has spread.

If you have any of these symptoms for no reason, or you get these symptoms regularly (especially more than 12 times a month), you should visit your GP;

  • a long-lasting bloated or swollen tummy
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling full quickly when you eat
  • pain in the lower tummy area or back
  • passing urine more often than usual
  • passing urine more urgently (feeling like you can’t hold on).

Other ovarian cancer symptoms may include:

  • a change in your normal bowel habit (diarrhoea or constipation)
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • unexplained or extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • vaginal bleeding after your menopause.

It’s unlikely you have cancer, but it’s best to check. A GP can do some simple tests to see if you have it. If you have already seen a GP and your symptoms continue or get worse, go back to them and explain this.

Patient information

For more information from Macmillan regarding ovarian cancer, please follow this link.

For more information from Cancer Research UK regarding ovarian cancer, please follow this link.

diagram labeling key parts of female internal anatomy