Learn the signs of ovarian cancer

It could save her life!
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Know the facts

  • Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in Australia, but the most lethal gynaecological cancer
  • There is no early detection test, which often means that diagnosis happens when the disease has already advanced
  • Consequently, only 49% of women diagnosed will survive beyond five years
  • The only way to currently confirm a diagnosis is by taking a biopsy during surgery and looking at the cells under a microscope
  • Though women over the age of 50 are mainly diagnosed; often younger women are also diagnosed


Over 64% of women recently surveyed by University of Melbourne, incorrectly believed a Pap smear detects ovarian cancer - It doesn't.

49% Survival

Following years of research, clinical trials and early detection tests, the survival rate for prostate cancer is now 96% and 94% for breast cancer. Unfortunately, the ovarian cancer survival rate is only 49%. Ovarian cancer needs more research to improve the current survival rate. An early detection test is crucial.

Looking out for the signs…

  • Vague abdominal pain or pressure
  • Feeling of abdominal fullness, gas, nausea, indigestion — Different to your normal sensations
  • Sudden abdominal swelling, weight gain or bloating
  • Persistent changes in bowel or bladder patterns
  • Low backache or cramps
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse

Other factors

  • Hereditary factors account for about 20% of Ovarian cancers
  • Having endometriosis, a previous breast cancer or diabetes
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (this applies to some ovarian cancer types)
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking, which may slightly increase the risk of developing mucinous ovarian cancer
  • Not having had children – women who have not had children are at a slightly higher risk

Symptoms? What to do…

  1. Go to your GP as soon as possible. Check-up will include an internal pelvic examination
  2. Blood tests: A full blood count may be done, as well as a measure of the blood protein CA 125, which is often raised in women with ovarian cancer. CA125 is a protein found in the blood and can be produced by ovarian cancer cells. However, there are other causes for raised CA125 levels such as menstruation, endometriosis or ovarian cysts. Half of all women with early stage ovarian cancer do not have elevated CA125 levels. The CA125 test is more reliable in postmenopausal women. It is for these reasons CA125 is not recommended as a screening test for women with no symptoms. (Source: Cancer Council) Other special ‘tumour markers’ may be tested for, but some tumours will not have elevations of these markers and the type of marker depends on the type of tumour
  3. Imaging tests: Ovarian cancer is usually identified by ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen and pelvis, and the CT scene can see if the cancer has spread throughout the body. It should be noted that this is not a definitive diagnosis, and will still require tissue sample collection
  4. Biopsy: A tissue biopsy is required to diagnose ovarian cancer. This is either done image guided (by ultrasound or CT) or by surgery. The sample is sent to a pathology laboratory where it is analysed under the microscope

Although tests and scans can show abnormalities, they cannot provide a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The only way to currently confirm a diagnosis is by taking a biopsy during surgery and looking at the cells under a microscope.

Make a difference today!

Due to the vagueness of ovarian cancer symptoms, an early detection test is desperately needed to improve the outcome of women diagnosed with this disease. But you can make a difference – Donate today to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF).