What's the story?

Incidence

  • Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women, with around 7,500 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year

  • Women have a 2% chance of getting ovarian cancer in their lifetime
     
  • 82% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50

  • Ovarian cancer diagnosis peaks in the 65-69 age group

  • Although it is much less common at a younger age, 1,344 women are diagnosed with the disease under the age of 50 

Click to download our ovarian cancer survival rates poster

Euro infographic small


Diagnosis

  • The majority of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage (stages 2, 3 and 4)
  • Women diagnosed at stage 1 have a 93% survival rate, compared to 13% at stage 4
  • The most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed via emergency presentation – this means that the patient has presented to Accident and Emergency and a diagnosis has been made from there.
  • Cervical screening does not detect ovarian cancer. 
  • There is currently no screening tool for ovarian cancer but Ovarian Cancer Action is trying to change that. Read more about our research into an ovarian cancer screening tool.

The symptoms

Ovarian cancer has four main symptoms: 

  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Finding it difficult to eat or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to wee more often
Other symptoms may include:
  •  Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A change in bowel habits (going more often or more frequently) 
  • Unexplained weight loss
If these symptoms are persistent, severe, and frequent or out of the ordinary, visit your GP immediately. Click here to download our symptoms poster

IBS or ovarian cancer?

One of the challenges of spotting ovarian cancer symptoms is that they are often mistaken for less serious conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 

IBS Ovarian cancer
IBS usually develops for the first time in patients in their 20s and 30s If you develop IBS symptoms for the first time in your 50s or later, it is unlikely to be IBS
IBS symptoms come and go and are related to eating particular foods and stress • Ovarian cancer symptoms are persistent and are not affected by your diet or stress

Treatment

Ovarian cancer is commonly treated with a combination of surgery (tumour resection) and chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is rarely used to treat the disease.

Mortality

  • A woman dies of ovarian cancer every two hours (4,116 deaths per year)
  • In the UK only 46% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive beyond five years
  • This means that the UK has one of the worst survival rates in the world

Recurrence

  • It is thought that ovarian cancer recurs in around 70% of cases
  • If the disease recurs more than six months after completing treatment it is referred to as platinum sensitive
  • If it recurs within six months of completing treatment it is referred to as platinum resistant 
  • It can often recur multiple times, and may become resistant to platinum chemotherapy later on 


BRCA gene mutations

People from backgrounds including Ashkenazi Jewish, Polish, Icelandic and Pakistani may be at greater risk of carrying a genetic mutation that increases ovarian cancer risk.

  • Around 15% of ovarian cancer cases are linked to BRCA – more than 1,000 cases
  • In the general populations around 1 in 400 people carry a BRCA gene mutation
  • Carrier risk increases in certain populations, particularly the Ashkenazi Jewish population where risk increases to 1 in 40
  • In a recent survey we did of the general population, 71% had never heard of BRCA mutations

Ovarian Cancer Action

Ovarian Cancer Action is the UK’s ovarian cancer research charity and its mission is to fund research that saves lives. 

Every four years Ovarian Cancer Action curates and hosts The HHMT International Forum on Ovarian Cancer: a conference of international ovarian cancer experts.  It brings together scientists across all disciplines to debate and determine the priorities in ovarian cancer research. These are published in the leading science journal Nature Reviews Cancer. These priorities inform our own research objectives.

The Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre was founded in 2006 and is now home to 70 scientists. Led by Professor Iain McNeish, the team is made up of both lab-based scientists, and clinician scientists, (including surgeons and oncologists), who work in the lab and treat patients. Their research is international, collaborative and translational – meaning it aims to ‘translate’ directly into new medicines, procedures and diagnostic tools that will benefit patients directly. Ovarian Cancer Action currently funds research into the following areas:

  • Reducing the chance of relapse
  • Stopping ovarian cancer in its tracks
  • Personalised medicine and prevention
  • Genetic risk screening
  • Personalised treatment
  • Early detection and screening
  • Cancer biology

For further info, case studies and more, call Tori on 020 7380 1730 or email Tori@ovarian.org.uk