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Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer, or cancer of the ovaries, is one of the most common types of cancer in women.

The ovaries are a pair of small organs located low in the tummy that are connected to the womb and store a woman's supply of eggs.

Ovarian cancer mainly affects women who have been through the menopause (usually over the age of 50), but it can sometimes affect younger women.

Information:

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Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

The symptoms are not always easy to recognise because they're similar to those of some more common conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

When to see a GP

See a GP if:

It's unlikely you have cancer, but it's best to check. A GP can do some simple tests to see if you have it.

Find out more about how ovarian cancer is diagnosed

If you have already seen a GP and your symptoms continue or get worse, go back to them and explain this.

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, a GP may refer you to a genetics specialist to discuss the option of genetic testing to check your ovarian cancer risk.

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown.

But some things may increase a woman's risk of getting it, such as:

The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on things such as how far the cancer has spread and your general health.

The main treatments are:

Treatment will aim to cure the cancer whenever possible. If the cancer has spread too far to be cured, the aim is to relieve symptoms and control the cancer for as long as possible.

Outlook for ovarian cancer

The earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of a cure.

But often it's not recognised until it's already spread and a cure is not possible.

Even after successful treatment, there's a high chance the cancer will come back within the next few years.

If it does come back, it cannot usually be cured. But chemotherapy may help reduce the symptoms and keep the cancer under control for several months or years.

Overall, around half of women with ovarian cancer will live for at least 5 years after diagnosis, and about 1 in 3 will live at least 10 years.

Cancer Research UK has more information about the survival statistics for ovarian cancer.