Suffolk ovarian cancer survivor urges women to learn common symptoms

Katy Stephenson after treatment for stage one cancer

Katy Stephenson after her treatment for stage one cancer in 2021 - Credit: Katy Stephenson

Most women do not know that bloating is a key symptom of ovarian cancer, while GPs can interpret the signs as other illnesses, a charity has warned.

A poll of 1,000 women for Target Ovarian Cancer found 79% did not know that bloating is a symptom, while 68% were unaware abdominal pain is a sign and 97% were unaware that feeling full is another.

Needing to urinate more urgently is also a sign, while evidence suggests women can often be told their symptoms are more a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Some 40% of women also incorrectly believed ovarian cancer can be picked up by screening for cervical cancer, the survey found.

Katy Stephenson from Bury St Edmunds was diagnosed with ovarian cancer by West Suffolk Hospital than

Katy said symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be missed or attributed to other causes - Credit: Katy Stephenson

Katy Stephenson, 47, from Bury St Edmunds, was diagnosed with early-stage ovarian cancer in 2021.

She had been experiencing symptoms like bloating and needing to urinate more urgently, but had put it down to being peri-menopausal.

Fortunately, she had a "fluke diagnosis" when she was admitted to hospital with appendicitis and the cancer was found much earlier than normal.

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She said: “I was actually told that I wouldn’t have symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer – but I did. I want everyone to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

“The only person that will catch them is you, so be aware of your own body, speak to a GP, and don’t be afraid to mention ovarian cancer if you’re worried.”

There are around 7,500 new ovarian cancer cases in the UK every year.

Ovarian cancer kills around a third of women in the first year after diagnosis and is often diagnosed in the late stages.

Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: "We know we’ve shifted the dial in the past 10 years through the dedication of thousands of Target Ovarian Cancer’s campaigners, but it is not enough.

“Knowing the symptoms is crucial for everyone."

Peter Holloway, a GP in Mendlesham and cancer lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commis

Peter Holloway, a GP in Mendlesham and cancer lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, has encouraged women to go to their doctor if they have symptoms of ovarian cancer - Credit: WARREN PAGE/PAGEPIX

Dr Peter Holloway,  a GP in Suffolk and cancer lead for the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “I urge anyone who has the signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can include bloating, loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss, not to delay in contacting their GP practice. 

“The symptoms you are experiencing may not be due to cancer, but if it is, getting it detected early means there is a much better chance of successful treatment.

“Please don’t think you are wasting the doctor’s time, get checked out.”