Diagnosing ovarian cancer during the pandemic

The NHS is open for business. Find out what to do if you're concerned about ovarian cancer symptoms or diagnostic tests during the pandemic.

Feeling concerned about symptoms, waiting for test results or to speak to a hospital doctor can be very worrying, this is especially likely if your hospital referral has been paused.

If you have any questions or concerns about your own situation you can contact our confidential support line by calling 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am–5.30pm. 

This information is correct as of 2 June 2020.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
  • Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (that's your tummy and below)
  • Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)

Occasionally there can be other symptoms:

  • Changes in bowel habit – diarrhoea or constipation 
  • Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired) 
  • Unexplained weight loss

Read more about symptoms

I'm worried I have symptoms of ovarian cancer. What should I do?

You must contact your GP practice. Your GP will want to hear from you. 

National guidance for doctors is very clear that cancer diagnosis and treatment remains a priority for doctors, even with the current coronavirus pandemic. 

GP services will vary from area to area, especially now, but all remain open and providing essential services. If you speak to a receptionist, explain that you have a new symptom(s) and are worried about ovarian cancer, and ask for an appointment with a GP. If you need to complete an online form remember to write on the form that you want to discuss ovarian cancer. Giving the practice as much information as possible will help them make the most appropriate appointment for you. 

Will I need to visit the surgery?

The GP practice is likely to offer you a telephone or video call with a GP. If your GP feels it would be helpful to examine you they will arrange to see you face-to-face, and they will take precautions to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.

Our top tips for speaking to your GP will help you discuss your ovarian cancer concerns with your GP.

What if I need to have tests?

Your GP may arrange for tests to rule out ovarian cancer or other conditions that might be causing your symptoms. They may contact the hospital directly on your behalf to arrange tests, or they may send a referral form to you via email or text message to take with you to your appointment.

Tests to rule out ovarian cancer usually include a blood test and an ultrasound scan. 

Ask your GP or the person performing the test how long you should expect to wait for the test results and how they will contact you with the results. If you don't hear anything in the recommended time frame, contact your GP practice. 

My GP suspects I have ovarian cancer, what will happen now?

If your GP is concerned that your symptoms are caused by ovarian cancer they will arrange an appointment with the gynae-oncology team at your local hospital. This is a group of doctors and nurses who diagnose and treat women with gynaecological cancers. This is known as an 'urgent suspected cancer' or 'two-week-wait' referral. 

I'm worried about coronavirus, is it safe for me to go hospital?

Your gynae-oncology doctor or your GP will discuss your symptoms, any medical conditions you have and the risks and benefits of visiting the hospital for further tests at this time. You may be offered a telephone or video consultation with the hospital team as a first appointment. Or your doctor might advise you that it's safer for you to pause the hospital visit or further tests for the time being. This is likely to be a really worrying time if you're concerned that you have cancer. If you're worried or have questions, contact our support line on 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am–5.30pm.

If you do agree with your doctor that it is necessary to visit the hospital for an examination or tests, the hospital team will take steps to minimise your risk of catching coronavirus. 

Busy places as you enter the hospital, lifts and communal areas will have systems in place to protect visitors from coronavirus; however, everyone must also follow the government advice on keeping themselves safe and following social distancing measures.

If you feel in need of greater reassurance, then phone your hospital and ask for them to explain the measures they are putting place. 

Travelling to a medical appointment is considered essential travel and permitted under the government guidance on preventing coronavirus spread.

My hospital referral has been paused, what happens now?

If you agree to pause the referral or tests, your GP or hospital doctor will arrange to follow up with you at a specific time. All patients who have been referred to gynae-oncology will be put on a patient tracking list so that they receive follow up at an appropriate time.

Discuss with your doctor when and how you should expect to hear from them and contact them if they do not follow-up with you in the agreed time.

My hospital referral has been paused but my symptoms are getting worse, what should I do?

If you have agreed to pause your hospital appointment and your symptoms worsen it's important that you contact your GP or hospital gynae-oncology doctor immediately. 

The NHS is there for you if you need it. Don't hesitate to seek medical advice. 

I'm currently shielding or self-isolating, can I still attend a medical appointment?

If you have a scheduled test or medical appointment, contact your GP or hospital team to confirm that your appointment is absolutely essential. Always ask your healthcare professionals, and don't make decisions about not attending the hospital without a discussing it first.

Many hospital teams are offering telephone or video appointments to help keep patients safe – this may be how you first contact your consultant.

How Target Ovarian Cancer can support you

Feeling concerned about symptoms, waiting for test results or to speak to a hospital doctor can be very worrying; this is especially likely if your hospital referral has been paused.

If you have any questions or concerns about your own situation you can contact our confidential support line on 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am–5.30pm.