Ovarian cancer often mistaken for other ailments

IT'S the stealthy assassin that will claim three out of four of its victims.

Ovarian cancer is a subtle killer, masking itself as common ailments such as pre-menstrual or irritable bowel syndromes.

About five Gladstone women are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Latest Queensland Health statistics show 279 Queensland women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 at a rate of 11 cases per 100,000 women.

Diagnosis figures were slightly lower in regional areas at 9.8 per 100,000, compared with 11.3 per 100,000 in urban areas.

About 83% of the disease's victims were women aged 50 or over.

Research published in the Lancet this week found that women who used hormone replacement therapy to ease menopause symptoms had an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said three out of four women diagnosed with the disease did not survive.

She said February's Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month activities, including Teal Ribbon Day on February 25, reminded women to watch out for the symptoms, which could often be misleading.

"The four key symptoms are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently or feeling full after eating a small amount," Dr Young said.

"During the early stages, symptoms are often very subtle so most women are unlikely to even consider that they may have ovarian cancer."

Dr Young said if there was any doubt, women should see a GP straight away.

There is no cause, but risks include smoking, being overweight and ageing.


The main symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating.
  • Needing to urinate often or urgently.
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount.
  • A diary to help you monitor the symptoms is available at ovariancancer.net.au.

Source: Ovarian Cancer Australia