By Jennifer Cockerell, Press Association Health Correspondent
Persistent bloating, a major symptom of ovarian cancer, could be mistaken as a result of post-Christmas weight gain, a charity has warned.
Target Ovarian Cancer is reminding women to remain vigilant about ovarian cancer, so bloating and other symptoms do not get passed off as overindulgence over the festive period.
Its research shows that only one in five women can name bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancer.
Awareness of the three other main symptoms – stomach pain, feeling full or loss of appetite, and needing to urinate more urgently or more often – is even lower.
The charity said that raising awareness of symptoms is a critical step to avoiding delayed diagnosis.
Currently, two-thirds of UK women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer once the disease has already spread, making it harder to treat and putting their lives at risk.
Research has shown that women are more likely to consider changing their diet than visit their GP when confronted with persistent bloating, and worries about Christmas excesses may mask the problem further.
There are around 7,400 new ovarian cancer cases in the UK every year, with more than 4,200 deaths from the disease in 2016.
Andrea Oliver, 55, from Middlesex, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after feeling bloated and unable to eat on holiday.
She said: “Looking back, even though I’d seen the symptoms of ovarian cancer, I still kept putting them down to other things.
“During a holiday my husband noticed I wasn’t eating much, but I thought it was because we were eating late in the evening.
“Don’t mistake the symptoms for something else, be aware what persistent bloating and bladder issues could mean, especially over the holiday season.”
Target Ovarian Cancer’s director of communications Alexandra Holden said: “Feeling bloated and full over the holidays is common for many women.
“However, it is important that women know about ovarian cancer and that anyone experiencing persistent bloating should make an appointment with their GP.
“Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer can save lives.”