As part of our Women’s Health Awareness Programme, we’re taking a closer look at cancers that commonly affect women.
Below, we take a look at ovarian and uterine cancer and some of the risk factors and symptoms associated with each. Please let us know if you find these tips helpful in the feedback section at the bottom of the article.
Around 7,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK each year, making it the sixth most common cancer in women.
There are some factors that can increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer. However, having one or more of these doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop it:
- Age: the risk of getting ovarian cancer rises from around 45 years – with more than half of cases in the UK in those aged 65 and over.
- Family history: if you are worried about a family member having had it, speak with your GP.
- Previous cancer: you may have an increased risk if you’ve had breast cancer before.
- HRT: using HRT after the menopause can increase your risk. However, this risk is small and for many, HRT is helpful to manage menopausal symptoms.
- Smoking: the longer you have smoked, the greater the risk.
- Some medical conditions: women with endometriosis or diabetes may have an increased risk.
- Being overweight or obese: excess body fat is also dangerous when it comes to cancer risk.
If you have any of the following symptoms 12 or more times a month, it is recommended you should speak to your GP who should, in turn, arrange tests – especially if you are over 50:
- Swollen tummy or bloating
- Feeling full quickly or loss of appetite
- Pain in your tummy
- Needing to pee more often or urgently.
These symptoms are all common and can be signs of much less serious conditions – so having them doesn’t mean you have cancer – but it’s always best to speak to your GP to be sure.
Also referred to as womb cancer, uterine cancer affects around 9,700 women in the UK each year.
The cause of womb cancer is not clear, but there are some factors that can increase your risk of developing it:
- Age: almost three quarters of cases in women are in those aged 40-74.
- Being overweight: around a third of womb cancers are linked to being overweight – yet this is also the most preventable factor.
- Increased oestrogen levels: oestrogen causes the cells in the womb to grow and divide – and cancer often develops where there’s a mistake with this process. By having more cells, you’re increasing that risk of mistakes.
- Thickened womb lining (or Endometrial Hyperplasia): this is a non-cancerous condition where the lining of the womb becomes thicker. You’re at higher risk of developing womb cancer if you have this thickening, especially if the extra lining cells are abnormal.
- Family history: research suggests that daughters of women with womb cancer have double the risk of developing it.
Around nine out of 10 womb cancers are picked up because of post-menopausal or irregular vaginal bleeding. These symptoms are worth looking out for:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (especially post-menopausal)
- Change to vaginal discharge
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain during sex
- Blood in urine
These symptoms can be caused by many different conditions. Having them does not necessarily mean you have womb cancer, but you should get checked out by your GP all the same.
Try our online courses and Groups on MyFFC
Find Out More
Our Find Out More – Physical Health and Find Our More – Healthy Eating courses have more information on staying healthy and happy, plus some small changes you can make in your everyday life.
You can also join our Groups in MyFFC, where you can chat to others going through similar experiences and access advice and peer support. Just ensure you’re registered with MyFFC and head to the ‘Groups’ tab at the top.
Please let us know if you found this article helpful, or if there’s anything you’d like us to have focused on more in the feedback section below.