Women who experience persistent bloating are more likely to change their diet by cutting out gluten or consuming probiotic yoghurts than visit their GP. But regular bloating is a major symptom for ovarian cancer, Target Ovarian Cancer has warned, meaning women may unknowingly put their health at risk by delaying a medical appointment.
New research from the charity found half (50%) of UK women said they would do something with their diet, whereas one in three (34%) said they would see a doctor if they were concerned about bloating.
Previous research by the charity found just one in five women can name persistent bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancer – an alarmingly low rate of awareness.
Two thirds of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer once the cancer has already spread, making it harder to treat.
The research also showed that women over 55 – who are most likely to develop ovarian cancer – are least likely to google their symptoms. The charity said this could be leaving them at risk of a delayed diagnosis. Just one in three women over 55 (34%) would google the causes of bloating, compared to almost two thirds of 18-24 year olds (64%).
Raising awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms is the first critical step, ensuring women know the potential significance of continued bloating and seek medical advice, the charity said. This awareness gap means that women are not visiting their GP promptly, not being sent for the correct ovarian cancer tests quickly, and risk missing out on a crucial early diagnosis.
Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “A probiotic yoghurt should not be preventing a woman from visiting the GP promptly if something is worrying her. Women should not be risking their lives because of the enduring awareness gap around the symptoms of ovarian cancer. If women know ovarian cancer symptoms such as persistent bloating and are able to link them to ovarian cancer early on, lives will be saved.”
Laura Everley, 38, from Crawley, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. She said: “Before I was diagnosed I was experiencing all of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, including bloating. I thought that maybe I might have irritable bowel syndrome because there are similar symptoms. I’d even tried going gluten free, but it had made no difference. The idea of cancer hadn’t even entered my head. You just never dream this is going to happen to you.”