We are committed to giving you the help and support you and your family need, including advice on benefits and where you can find extra support.
Please get in contact with us for advice if you think your ovarian cancer diagnosis has been mishandled. Claims are usually on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Ovarian cancer – the facts
The ovaries are two small organs that are part of a woman’s reproductive system. The ovaries produce an egg each month in a woman of child-bearing age. The ovaries are also responsible for the production of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen.
Most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are older than 45 and have been through the menopause. There are different types of ovarian cancer but the most common are epithelial ovarian cancers, which is where the cancer began in the layer covering the ovary.
About one in 10 ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited faulty gene. If you have very close relatives who have breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be at more risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Sadly, most ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage and have often spread to another part of the body. However, if caught at an earlier stage, and before it has spread, it can often be successfully treated.
What causes ovarian cancer?
It is not entirely clear what causes ovarian cancer, though there are certain risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing the disease. These include:
- older age
- an inherited gene mutation
- a family history of ovarian cancer
- using hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- being overweight
- being a smoker
However, the fact that you meet any of these risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get ovarian cancer. Similarly, you may get ovarian cancer even if you don’t have any of the risk factors listed.
We know that around 8 out of 10 cases of ovarian cancer occur in women over 50, although some rare types can occur in younger women. Genes can also play a role, as a faulty version of a gene called BRCA1 or BRCA2 (according to the NHS) can be passed down between generations and has been linked to ovarian cancer. This gene has also been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. That said, you should keep in mind that having a relative with ovarian cancer or breast cancer doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop the disease. NHS figures show that only around 1 in every 10 ovarian cancer diagnosis is thought to be genetic.
Research reported by Cancer.org has suggested that taking the female contraceptive pill, taking a pregnancy to full-term and breastfeeding may reduce a woman’s chance of developing ovarian cancer.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
One of the reasons that it tends to be diagnosed at a later stage is that symptoms of ovarian cancer are quite vague. Also, many women with very early ovarian cancer don’t have any symptoms at all.
Ovarian cancer can cause:
- Pain in the lower abdomen or side
- Persistent bloating or swelling of the abdomen
- Irregular periods / vaginal bleeding after the menopause
- Back pain
- The need to urinate more often
- Pain during sex
- A feeling of fullness, or loss of appetite
More advanced cancer can also cause tiredness, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath.
Going to see your GP
Given how vague some of the symptoms are, your GP may initially wait to see if your symptoms go away on their own, or give you antibiotics. However, if certain symptoms occur and you are at particular risk of ovarian cancer they should refer you to a specialist straight away.
When you see your GP they will ask about your symptoms and your general health. They may do an internal examination, and may refer you for a blood test to check for cancer.
They may refer you for an ultrasound scan. After your GP gets the test results, you may be referred to a specialist gynaecologist.
When you see the specialist, they may repeat these tests. They may also send you for a CT scan. Sometimes, even after doing all of these tests it still isn’t clear whether you have ovarian cancer. Depending upon the position, they may call you back for repeat tests in 3 months time, or they may do a biopsy operation.
If a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is made, you will need to have further tests to find out how far the cancer has grown, and if it has spread. What tests you need depends upon what you have had done already, and what your symptoms are.
Ovarian cancer misdiagnosis
Given that the earlier that ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome, it is vital that women are diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, there can be delays in diagnosis that are due to medical negligence. For example:
- An abnormal test result isn’t followed up by your doctor
- A test isn’t correctly reported to the doctor, or yourself
- Your GP doesn’t examine you when required or refer you to a specialist after you have reported symptoms
- Your symptoms are repeatedly diagnosed as another illness
We understand that even the knowledge of a lost opportunity of an earlier cancer diagnosis can be devastating and that money can not truly compensate the affect this can have. However, compensation can help to give you and your family security.
In addition to compensation for the advanced cancer caused by negligence, you can also recover the cost of expenses, such private medical treatment and extra private care.