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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • epidemiology;
  • ovarian cancer;
  • signs and symptoms;
  • women’s health

Background:  Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are often vague and non-specific, such as abdominal bloating and pain. Presently, nothing is known about the prevalence of these symptoms among women in the community.

Aims:  To identify the prevalence and correlates of symptoms associated with ovarian cancer in a nationally representative sample of Australian women.

Methods:  Women answered questions about symptoms associated with ovarian cancer via computer-assisted telephone interviews. Binomial regression was used to assess the association between reporting symptoms, demographic characteristics and sexual problems.

Results:  Data on 2235 women aged 18–70 who had not had an oophorectomy or hysterectomy were analysed. Prevalences of symptoms were abdominal bloating 52%, abdominal pain 37%, increased abdominal size 30%, pelvic pain 29%, feeling full quickly 18% and unable to eat normally 15%. One-third of women (32%) reported three or more symptoms, 2% reported all six and 32% of women reported none. Severe symptoms were generally reported by <10% of women reporting symptoms, and symptoms usually persisted for 5 days or less a month. Older women were less likely to report symptoms, as were women who had been pregnant. There was an association between symptoms and sexual difficulties whereby women who reported multiple ovarian cancer symptoms were more likely to report sexual problems.

Conclusions:  There is a high prevalence of ovarian cancer symptoms in the Australian community. Because of this, awareness campaigns will likely impact a large number of women who do not have ovarian cancer.