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Urgent ovarian cancer symptoms ignored during lockdown

Lives are at risk because women are not taking urgent cancer symptoms seriously during the pandemic, according to new research by Target Ovarian Cancer.

Key ovarian cancer symptoms are of particular concern: Less than 2 in 10 women (17%) say they would book an urgent GP appointment (within a week) if they were experiencing persistent bloating.

This contrasts with other cancer symptoms such as an unexplained lump, or a mole that has changed shape, where over 50% of women would get to their GP within a week.

The pandemic has heightened the threat to early diagnosis of ovarian cancer: women think their GP is only open for urgent appointments, and yet do not recognise symptoms as urgent. The resulting delays could make them at greater risk of being diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

Currently, two thirds of women are diagnosed late. That is when the cancer has already spread and is much harder to treat successfully. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, 9 out of 10 (93%) will survive for five years or more. When diagnosed at the most advanced stage (stage IV) just 13% will survive.

Dr Alison Wint GP and Clinical Lead for Cancer at NHS Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire CCG said: “Cancer is not going away just because of Covid-19. GPs want to know. In fact, it’s as important as ever to come forward with urgent cancer symptoms such as persistent bloating, feeling full quickly or loss of appetite, tummy pain, needing to wee more often or more urgently, change in bowel habits or weight loss. Take it seriously and talk to your GP.”

Annwen Jones OBE, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “It is absolutely vital that women know persistent bloating needs to be checked out by a GP. The pandemic can make it hard to put ourselves first, and people are worried about putting pressure on the NHS. But getting ovarian cancer symptoms checked out promptly and starting treatment quickly makes all the difference.”

Target Ovarian Cancer is the UK’s leading ovarian cancer charity, working to raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this March. From our work with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer, to successfully campaigning for national ovarian cancer awareness campaigns including PHE’s recent successful Help Us Help You campaign, we’ve been pushing hard for better awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer for over a decade.

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