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What is Ovarian Cancer?

The ovaries are two small glands that produce eggs for reproduction, and they produce oestrogen and progesterone (female hormones).

Ovarian cancer occurs as a result of abnormal cells in the ovary being multiplied, creating a tumour. This may be cancerous and could potentially grow and spread to other body parts.

What are the symptoms?

Other symptoms include:

  • Extreme unexplained tiredness

  • Changes in bowel habits 

  • Unexplained weight loss

Ovarian cancer is not a common disease and it is unlikely that you have it even if you are experiencing these symptoms.


However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important that you make an appointment with your GP in order to rule out the possibility. 

Who is at risk?

  • Family history: If two or more relatives have had ovarian cancer and breast cancer, you may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

  • Age over 50: Approximately 84% of cases are diagnosed in women over 50, and more than 50% of all cases in women over 65. However, women can get ovarian cancer at any age.

  • A long menstrual history: Ovarian cancer is linked to increased ovulation, therefore a long menstrual history can increase the risk. Things that are associated with a long menstrual history include: starting periods earlier, starting menopause later and never giving birth.


  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Approximately 1% of ovarian cancer cases are linked to HRT, and women should discuss all risks and benefits with their GP. 

Did you know...

  • Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in the UK

  • Approximately 7,400 women per year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK

  • The cervical smear test does NOT detect ovarian cancer

  • There is currently no national screening programme for ovarian cancer

  • It is important to know the symptoms and to act as soon as you notice something abnormal

  • There is no associated link between sexual activity and ovarian cancer

  • Approximately 20% of cases affect women under 50

  • If diagnosed and treated early, then outcomes are good 

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