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Why you shouldn't dismiss your bloating as IBS or food intolerances

It could actually be a sign of something more serious

Chloe Best

Many of us experience bloating on a regular basis, but that 'food baby' could actually be a sign of something more serious, doctors have warned. Bloating is one of the primary symptoms of ovarian cancer, which claims more than 4,000 lives each year.

New research from charity Target Ovarian Cancer has revealed that half of women would initially try changing their diet if they experienced bloating, eating probiotic yoghurts or going gluten-free in a bid to reduce their symptoms. Meanwhile, only one in three women would visit a doctor if they were experiencing persistent bloating.

Now the charity is trying to raise awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms, as the disease affects around 7,000 women each year in the UK, making it one of the most common women's cancers. Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: "A probiotic yoghurt should not be preventing a woman from visiting the GP promptly if something is worrying her. Women should not be risking their lives because of the enduring awareness gap around ovarian cancer.

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"If women know ovarian cancer symptoms, such as persistent bloating, and are able to link them to ovarian cancer early on, lives will be saved." Get more details about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cancer below…

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Many symptoms can be similar to those from PMS or irritable bowel syndrome, meaning almost half of women (45 per cent) wait three months or more from first visiting their GP to getting an accurate diagnosis. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include...

  • Feeling constantly bloated
  • A swollen tummy
  • Discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
  • Feeling full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite
  • Needing to pee more often or more urgently than normal

Some women may have additional symptoms, such as:

  • Persistent indigestion or nausea
  • Pain during sex
  • Back pain
  • A change in your bowel habits
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Vaginal bleeding – particularly bleeding after the menopause
  • Feeling tired all the time

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

Target Ovarian Cancer advises that if you are suffering any of the above symptoms more than 12 times a month, your GP should do a blood test which measures the level of a protein called CA125 in your sample. Depending on the results, they may also recommend an ultrasound scan. If the test results suggest that ovarian cancer may be a possibility, you will be referred to a gynaecological oncologist for further tests.

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What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?

The initial treatment for ovarian cancer usually consists of a combination of chemotherapy and surgery, to remove as much of the affected areas as possible. Treatment will depend on the type of ovarian cancer as well as the stage and grade.

If you have any health concerns it is important to visit your GP and seek professional medical advice. Visit targetovariancancer.org.uk for more detailed information on the condition.

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