Women with ovarian cancer are being abandoned by GPs who overlook the symptoms of the disease, activists have warned.
The warning comes after a study by charity Target Ovarian Cancer found that women are often unaware of the disease’s main symptoms.
Researchers who surveyed 1,000 women living in the UK found that four out of five women have no idea that bloating is a symptom of ovarian cancer.
About seven out of ten women are unaware that abdominal pain is a symptom, and 97 percent were unaware that bloating is a sign of the disease.
About 99 percent of those surveyed did not know that an increased urge to urinate can be a sign.
Every day, 11 women die from ovarian cancer, with two-thirds being diagnosed with the disease after the cancer has already spread, making treatment more difficult and increasing the likelihood of it coming back.
If doctors are able to diagnose ovarian cancer in its earliest stages, nine out of 10 women will live five years or more, but about one in 10 survive if not diagnosed until the most advanced stage IV.
But Target Ovarian Cancer said the key symptoms are being ignored “by both sufferers and their GPs.”
Annwen Jones, chief executive of the charity, said: “These figures are incredibly disappointing. We know that over the past 10 years, through the dedication of thousands of Target Ovarian Cancer activists, we have shifted the scale.
“But it’s not enough. Knowing the symptoms is crucial for everyone. We must make sustained and large-scale government-sponsored symptom campaigns a reality. progress is possible. If we do this, fewer people will be diagnosed late, fewer will need invasive treatments and ultimately fewer people will die needlessly from ovarian cancer.”
The charity warned that ovarian cancer can develop and grow before it’s discovered if symptoms are overlooked by women themselves or their GPs – or mistakenly mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome.
The researchers found that if the disease is diagnosed late, the disease kills three out of 10 women in the year after it is first detected.
The poll found that 40 per cent of UK women wrongly believe cervical cancer screening, also known as swab testing, indicates ovarian cancer. That’s a significant increase from the 31 percent of women who thought it was the case in a 2016 survey.
The researchers argued that the common misconception that a swab helps detect ovarian cancer prevents people from paying attention to symptoms of the disease.
Katy Stephenson, who was diagnosed with early-stage ovarian cancer last year, said: “I’ve had symptoms like bloating and urination more urgently for a number of months, but I would put it down to perimenopause.
“I had an accidental diagnosis when I was admitted to the hospital with appendicitis. If that hadn’t happened the cancer would probably have spread and I hate to think about what would have happened.
“I was actually told I wouldn’t have any symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer — but I did.”
Ms Stephenson, a 47-year-old woman from Bury St Edmunds, urged everyone to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
“The only person who will get them is you, so take care of your own body, talk to a GP. And don’t be afraid to bring up ovarian cancer if you’re concerned,” she added.
There are around 7,500 new cases of ovarian cancer in the UK each year – with around 4,000 deaths each year.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers in women – according to the NHS around half of women with the disease will live at least five years after diagnosis, while around one in three women will live at least a decade.
dr Victoria Barber, a GP working in Northamptonshire and campaigning for early primary care diagnosis of ovarian cancer, said: “The symptoms come on early in ovarian cancer and your GP wants to hear from you if you have any of them , when they’re new to you and when they don’t go away.
“It’s also important that GPs know about ovarian cancer and how to counsel patients with concerns. Target Ovarian Cancer has a GP continuing education program that can help you with that.”