Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors


Ovarian cancer in a nutshell

Written by | 1 Mar 2022 | Oncology

No fewer than 11 women die of ovarian cancer every day in the UK, equivalent to more than 4000 per annum.1 About 7,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the UK and the incidence has remained stable since the early 1990s.1

Ovarian cancer accounts for 2% of cancer cases in the UK and the peak incidence occurs in the 75-79 year age group.1  However, it also affects younger age groups – about 1000 women under the age of 50 develop ovarian cancer every year.2 BBC presenter Dianne Oxberry died at the age of 51, just 10 days after receiving a diagnosis of ovarian cancer (See Dianne’s story).

As with other cancers, if diagnosed at the earliest stage, the five-year survival is greater than 90% (i.e. 9 in 10 women will survive for five years)  but the majority – about two thirds of women – are diagnosed late, when the cancer is harder to treat.1  Over a quarter of women with ovarian cancer (27 per cent) are diagnosed through an emergency presentation such as Accident and Emergency.3 Moreover, almost half of women (45 per cent) must wait three months or more from first visiting their GP to getting a correct diagnosis.⁸

Awareness and understanding of ovarian cancer amongst health care professionals and the general public is less than desirable. According to a study by Target Ovarian Cancer, nearly half of GPs (44 per cent) mistakenly believed symptoms were only present in the later stages of ovarian cancer.3 In addition, one in five women (22 per cent) mistakenly thought a smear test (for cervical cancer) would detect ovarian cancer.3

Know the symptoms

Ovarian cancer is very definitely NOT silent but the symptoms are somewhat non-specific and can be mistaken for other things such as irritable bowel syndrome or ovarian cysts.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Persistent bloating
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency and/or frequency)

There can also be

  • Changes in bowel habit
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Post-menopausal bleeding

Symptoms will be frequent, persistent and new for the patient.

The ovarian cancer charity Ovacome suggests using the acronym BEAT to remember the symptoms

B is for bloating that doesn’t come and go

E is for eating difficulty and feeling full more quickly

A is for abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days

T is for toilet changes in urination or bowel habits

Support and information

Several organisations exist in the UK and worldwide to provide support for women and raise awareness of ovarian cancer. These include:


Target Ovarian Cancer

Dianne Oxberry Trust

World Ovarian Cancer Coalition


  1. Cancer Research UK [Accessed Feb 2022]
  2. Target Ovarian Cancer [Accessed Feb 2022]
  3. Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study 2016 [PDF]
Newsletter Icon

Subscribe for our mailing list

If you're a healthcare professional you can sign up to our mailing list to receive high quality medical, pharmaceutical and healthcare E-Mails and E-Journals. Get the latest news and information across a broad range of specialities delivered straight to your inbox.


You can unsubscribe at any time using the 'Unsubscribe' link at the bottom of all our E-Mails, E-Journals and publications.