Your long-term bloating could be more than tummy trouble

Most people know what it’s like to feel bloated, but if your new-onset stomach bloating is becoming more than an occasional inconvenience, it’s essential to explore this with your doctor.

While most people experience harmless bloating at some point depending on our diet, new onset stomach bloating that doesn't resolve can be a symptom of ovarian cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in women.

Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose, but constant bloating is the most common indication leading to diagnosis. Other common symptoms include:

  • A swollen tummy
  • Discomfort in your stomach or pelvic area
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Bowel changes
  • Needing to pee more often than normal.

The symptoms aren’t always easy to recognise because they’re easily confused with those of more common conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s worth knowing IBS very rarely presents for the first time in someone over fifty.

It also might help to know some of the most common risk factors associated with ovarian cancer, including:

  • Never having had children
  • Having children late in life
  • Obesity
  • A family history of ovarian cancer
  • Age - it's more common in middle-to-late age
  • Certain genetic abnormalities.

Make an appointment to discuss your bloating with your doctor or nurse if:

  • You’ve had new-onset bloating most days for the last three weeks
  • You have other persistent symptoms of ovarian cancer
  • You have a family history of ovarian cancer.

If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer you could speak to your doctor or health professionals about getting a genetic screening test to asses your risk. 

Bloating isn’t necessarily a sign of cancer, but an investigation is vital even if you’re nervous or worried. Early detection makes ovarian cancer easier to treat. Seeing your doctor or nurse could save your life. Even if you’re shy,  concerned or embarrassed about making an appointment, don’t delay. Ignoring your concerns is unlikely to result in the worry or your symptoms going away.

The good news is that most people with bloating don’t have cancer, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek a professional medical opinion.

If you have a concern or a diagnosis, you can find out more about ovarian cancer on the following charity websites:

Target Ovarian Cancer
Cancer Research UK
Ovarian Cancer Action

Last updated Monday 1 April 2019

First published on Thursday 28 March 2019