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Experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms

female GP

If you are experiencing any of the four possible symptoms of ovarian cancer (persistent bloating, persistent stomach pain, difficulty eating or feeling full more quickly, and needing to wee more urgently or frequently) then you should make an appointment with your GP.

Symptoms diary

Keep a record of your symptoms to take with you to your appointment, this will help to support you with your conversations with your GP and any other Healthcare professional you may be referred to. Use our downloadable symptoms diary to help you keep track.

At the GP surgery

At your appointment the GP should take a history of your symptoms, their severity and frequency. It would also be useful to:

  • Tell them about any family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Discuss your heritage: people from Ashkenazi Jewish, Polish, Icelandic, and Pakistani backgrounds are more likely to carry a genetic fault which increases ovarian cancer risk
  • Prepare a list of questions
  • Bring a friend or family member for support.

Testing for ovarian cancer

Initially, your GP will conduct a physical examination of your tummy (abdomen) to feel for anything unusual, and they may also do an internal vaginal examination.

If your GP is concerned that your symptoms could be caused by something like ovarian cancer, they should then refer you for a CA125 blood test, and then an ultrasound scan if your blood test results indicate a need for further investigation.

If the results of your blood test and ultrasound suggest the presence of ovarian cancer, your GP should then refer you to a gynaecologist who may conduct a keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) or an open surgery (laparotomy). During these procedures the gynaecologist will remove tissue from the ovary and take biopsies in order to determine whether or not you have ovarian cancer.

Being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome

If after visiting your GP, you are told you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) there are some things to consider before accepting that this is the case.

If you are over the age of 50 and have never experienced IBS before then it is unlikely that you will start to develop it now. Generally, IBS develops in people during their 20s and 30s.

To establish with confidence that your symptoms are being caused by IBS, guidelines say that your GP should rule out other health issues first by referring you for the following tests: a full blood count, testing for coeliac disease, and other more specific tests of things called c-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. 

If you feel you’re not being taken seriously

GPs see the common symptoms of ovarian cancer multiple times a day, and most of the time there will be a more common cause. However, if you feel your symptoms persist and get worse, and the things that your GP is suggesting are not effective you can consider the following options:

  • Ensure your symptoms diary is filled in as comprehensively as possible so you are giving your GP as much information as you can
  • Take someone with you to your appointment for moral support, and to help reinforce the impact and severity of your symptoms
  • You are entitled to a second opinion. Consider asking if another GP can be bought into the consultation
  • If you usually see the same GP, try and see a different one at your next appointment and explain everything from the start to them
  • If you are still having problems, visit your local walk-in centre.

Reviewed: September 2022

Next review: September 2023