Dr Alison Wint
GP and Member of Target Ovarian Cancer’s GP Advisory Board
For Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this March, it is important to raise awareness of the symptoms you need to know and why self-advocacy is important when it comes to your health.
Evidence tells us that if you’re involved in your own healthcare decisions, you’ll not only have a better experience in the health system, but also better outcomes in your own treatment and care. This is especially important when it comes to ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer symptoms
Ovarian cancer can be complex to diagnose, four out of five women cannot name one of the key symptoms – bloating. Currently there are no effective screening tools for the disease, unlike the cervical or bowel screening programmes, yet an early diagnosis can make a huge difference. Knowing the symptoms and advocating for yourself could save your life.
The more your doctor knows, the faster they can diagnose or rule out ovarian cancer.
What should I know about ovarian cancer?
Firstly, the main symptoms are persistent bloating, feeling full or difficulty eating, tummy pain, and needing to wee more often or more urgently. If they are new for you and continue for three weeks or more, it’s time to take control. Make a note, try to track them and talk to your doctor if you’re worried. You wouldn’t go to a meeting with a lawyer or architect unprepared, so don’t be afraid to do the same here.
Video and voice calls with the GP
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, GP appointments are not always face-to-face. Even though it can feel awkward to discuss gynaecological issues over the phone or video, there are ways to make it easier: many GPs now have online booking questionnaires, which are helpful preparation.
For the call itself, try to make sure you’re in a quiet, well-lit room (if it’s a video call). Bring some notes on the main symptoms you’re noticing – it can help to clarify your thoughts and make sure you don’t forget anything that’s worrying you.
Whatever happens, if you’re worried about it, don’t be afraid to mention ovarian cancer and any family history of the disease, since it can be hereditary. The more your doctor knows, the faster they can diagnose or rule out ovarian cancer.