Ovarian Cancer – The silent disease

Bay cluster network with Reem El-Sharkawi

This month we are focusing on ovarian cancer, inspired by following the story of Dr Nadia Chaudhri (left) on Twitter. Dr Chaudhri is a neuroscientist from Montreal who took to social media when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020; she now has 126,500 people following her.

For many years ovarian cancer has been known as the silent disease. This is because in its early stages it may not cause symptoms that patients would notice. Even in advanced stages the symptoms may be confused with constipa-tion or urinary tract infections.

Early detection and diagnosis of the disease will hopefully have a better prognosis.

Symptoms of Ovarian cancer

These include:

  • Feeling bloated
  • Swollen tummy
  • Discomfort in tummy or pelvic area
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Urinary symptoms including needing to urinate more frequently


The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown but there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease.

These include:

  • Age over 50
  • A family history of ovarian or breast cancer.
  • Hormone replacement therapy – although this risk is small.
  • Endometriosis
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity


The treatment of ovarian cancer depends on the stage at which the disease is detected.

The main options include:


This aims to remove as much of the cancer as possible. It may include removing the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes – again this will depend on the extent of the disease.


Following surgery, chemotherapy is often used to kill cancer cells.

This may be done before or after surgery.

Side effects may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Nausea, anxiety and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased risk of infections

These symptoms can be managed by medication so please consult with your GP if you are experi-encing side effects of treatment.

Targeted therapies

These are medicines that change the way that cells work and can stop the cancer spreading. They are not suitable for all types of ovarian cancer. Your oncologist (cancer specialist) will be able to talk through the best manage-ment options for your type of cancer.

As with all types of cancer there is ongoing research into new treatments through clinical trials.

If you have any concerns or may-be suffering with the symptoms listed above, then please discuss these with a GP who will be able to organise further investigations.





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