You should be able to rely on an accurate ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment when visiting a doctor but unfortunately this isn’t always the case and misdiagnosis of ovarian cancer can occur. The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be mild initially and are easy to mistake for other conditions, leading to a missed or delayed diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer misdiagnosis can mean that the cancer continues to develop and spread because the treatment needed isn’t started, resulting in the likelihood of treatment working decreasing. It can also mean that more extensive surgery is required, possibly resulting in the need to remove the womb rather than just the ovaries and fallopian tubes, meaning a woman can no longer carry a pregnancy.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is a digestive condition that affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain and bloating, common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Diverticulitis itself can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other conditions and GPs must often rule out other causes through blood tests.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is thought to affect up to 1 in 5 people at some point in their life and the signs of the digestive condition, stomach cramps and bloating among them, can mean patients are initially wrongly diagnosed as having IBS when they have ovarian cancer. Guidelines recommend that women with symptoms suggesting IBS and aged over 50 are tested for ovarian cancer.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as endometriosis
Endometriosis affects around 2 million women in the UK and is a condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside of the womb. The condition has some similar signs to that of ovarian cancer and can also lead to a raise CA125 levels, a protein that can indicate ovarian cancer.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects how a woman’s ovaries work. While the main symptoms of PCOS don’t mimic ovarian cancer, it can be mistaken for the disease, especially if the necessary tests are not carried out.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as fibroids
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumours in or around the womb. Some of the symptoms are similar to ovarian cancer. Fibroids can also raise CA125 in the blood, an indicator of ovarian cancer, which can lead to the conditions being confused unless further testing is carried out.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as UTI
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common infections that can affect the bladder and kidneys. Symptoms can mimic those of ovarian cancer but the antibiotics prescribed won’t relieve the signs and this should serve as a indicator that more tests should be conducted.
• Ovarian cancer misdiagnosed as cyst
Cysts are usually harmless and disappear without treatment, they are fluid-filled sacs that can develop on the ovaries. Cysts can be diagnosed using an ultrasound scan and if there is a concern that the cyst is cancerous your GP should arrange a blood test but on rare cases that can be overlooked, resulting in delayed diagnosis.