Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer affects 7,300 people a year. If you have ovaries you are at risk of this cancer. This is relevant to you if you have not had an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries).

Symptoms:

  • Increased abdominal size and persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
  • Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Unexplained change in bowel habits
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous

Risk factors:

Family history
If you have two or more close relatives who developed ovarian cancer or breast cancer, your risk of also developing the condition may be increased.

If your relatives developed cancer before the age of 50, it’s more likely it was the result of an inherited faulty gene. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that when altered are linked to ovarian cancer, breast cancer, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

You may be at a high risk of having a faulty gene if you have:

  • One relative diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age and at least two close relatives with breast cancer whose average age is under 60; or alternatively at least one close relative with breast cancer under the age of 50. All of these relatives should be on the same side of your family (either your mother’s OR father’s side)
  • Two relatives from the same side of the family diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age.

If you’re at a higher risk of having the BRCA gene alteration, your GP can refer you for tests to check for faulty BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Hormones
If you are on hormone treatment, it may alter your risk. There is a small reduction in risk if you are on or have taken a combined contraceptive pill. There may be a slight increase in risk on certain types of HRT. There is currently very little research into the effects of testosterone on ovarian cancer risk.