Understanding Ovarian Cancer – Your Guide to this Awareness Month

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in March presents an opportunity to shed light on ovarian cancer, educating about symptoms and striving to change the future for women diagnosed with this condition.

Every year in the UK, over 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and unfortunately two-thirds of these diagnoses come too late, when it’s harder to treat.1 Shockingly, 95% of women would survive ovarian cancer for five years or more if they were diagnosed at stage one,2 and the current ovarian cancer survival rate is lower than breast cancer in the 1970s.3


Do you know the 4 main symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Understanding ovarian cancer symptoms can empower individuals to recognise signs and help to ensure timely intervention for this often overlooked and misdiagnosed disease. Early detection can significantly improve treatment outcomes and save lives.

The 4 main symptoms include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty eating
  • Persistent bloating
  • Frequent peeing

Other symptoms can include:

  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
  • Extreme tiredness

As symptoms are common and overlap with various conditions, it can be helpful to keep a log of symptoms and book an appointment with your GP if you are concerned. A symptom diary is available on the Ovarian Cancer Action website, which can be accessed here.

Myth: The smear test can detect ovarian cancer.

Amongst the 5 gynaecological cancers, only cervical cancer has a screening option. Smear tests can detect abnormal cells in the cervix. There is currently no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer, further emphasising the importance of symptom awareness.

Is there a genetic risk?

Approximately 20% of ovarian cancer cases have a hereditary cause. BRCA genes inherited from parents play a crucial role, acting as instruction manuals for cells, helping to repair damage, and preventing cells from growing in an uncontrolled manner. In the UK, 1 in 200 people carry a BRCA gene fault.. An inherited BRCA1/2 gene mutation is associated with an up to 60% chance of developing ovarian cancer.4 If you meet the eligibility criteria you may be referred for genetic testing on the NHS.


How can I reduce my risk?

While it’s not always possible to prevent ovarian cancer, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower the risk of this and many other cancers.5

For some top tips on diet and lifestyle, check out these other Love Your Gut blogs:

For more information and support visit the following national charity websites:


  1. Target Ovarian Cancer. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Available at: https://targetovariancancer.org.uk/get-involved/ovarian-cancer-awareness-month#:~:text=Every%20March%20is%20Ovarian%20Cancer,cancer%20is%20harder%20to%20treat.
  2. Ovarian Cancer Action. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Available at: https://ovarian.org.uk/#:~:text=95%25%20of%20women%20would%20survive,all%20women%20survive%20ovarian%20cancer.
  3. Ovarian Cancer Action. Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. Available at: https://ovarian.org.uk/ovarian-cancer/gynae-cancer-awareness-month/.
  4. Ovarian Cancer Action. BRCA mutations: everything you need to know. Available at: https://ovarian.org.uk/ovarian-cancer/brca/brca-mutations-everything-you-need-know/
  5. Causes – Ovarian Cancer. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ovarian-cancer/causes/.