Woman with tummy pain holding a hot water bottle

Do enough of us know the symptoms? We investigate

New data reveals how aware the UK is of ovarian cancer and its symptoms.

It’s nearly Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and we’ve been investigating how aware the UK is of the disease and its symptoms. Our brand new data shows there’s been progress, but things aren’t moving fast enough. Knowing the four symptoms is still the biggest weapon we all have in the fight against ovarian cancer.  

March is a time for action. We've created an open letter to UK governments telling them exactly what's needed. Your signature, along with thousands of others, will make it impossible for decision makers to ignore this. 


What’s changed? 

We found that awareness of key symptoms is still too low. Just one in five of you know that bloating is one of the symptoms. Two thirds know tummy pain, which is the biggest area we’ve seen improvement (in 2016 just 2 in 10 of you knew this symptom). Hardly anyone knows that feeling full quickly or needing to wee more urgently can be symptoms of ovarian cancer.  

When symptoms are ignored or passed off as more common conditions like IBS, ovarian cancer has time to advance before it is found. If caught early, it’s much more treatable. 

Cervical screening confusion 

We were even more worried to find 40 per cent of UK women think cervical screening (a smear test) detects ovarian cancer. This is up from 31 per cent in 2016.

Confusion between cervical cancer and ovarian cancer can be fatal. Thinking that a smear test also helps prevent ovarian cancer stops people from looking out for the symptoms.  

We know what’s needed 

Together, we're demanding UK governments take urgent action. Add your name to our open letter. We'll make sure it reaches the people in power where you live. 


Annwen Jones OBE, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said:

These figures are incredibly disappointing. We know we’ve shifted the dial in the past 10 years, through the dedication of thousands of Target Ovarian Cancer’s campaigners. But it is not enough. Knowing the symptoms is crucial for everyone. We need to make sustained and large-scale government-backed symptoms campaigns a reality.

Katy Stephenson, 47, from Bury St Edmunds, was diagnosed with early-stage ovarian cancer in 2021. She said:

I had been experiencing symptoms like bloating and needing to wee more urgently for a few months, but I’d put it down to being peri-menopausal. I had a fluke diagnosis when I was admitted to hospital with appendicitis. If that hadn’t happened, the cancer probably would have spread, and I hate to think about what would have happened. I was actually told that I wouldn’t have symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer – but I did. I want everyone to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer. The only person that will catch them is you, so be aware of your own body, speak to a GP. And don’t be afraid to mention ovarian cancer if you’re worried.

Dr Victoria Barber, a GP in Northamptonshire and advocate for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the primary care community said:

Symptoms do appear early on in ovarian cancer, and your GP wants to hear from you if you’re experiencing any of them, if they are new for you and if they do not go away. Similarly, it’s vital that GPs are knowledgeable on ovarian cancer and know how to advise patients who have concerns. Target Ovarian Cancer has a GP education programme that can help you do this.