Ovarian cancer

March 10, 2018

Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries. The ovaries form part of the female reproductive system and they are each around 3 cms long and store the eggs that are released each month as a part of ovulation. Links have been made between ovulation and ovarian cancer but it is not known exactly why. Cancer Research UK think that that it could be to do with the ovary having to burst open each time it releases an egg and then having to repair itself afterwards. This repair process may be a reason for the link between ovulation and ovarian cancer.

There are many other factors that seem to increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer, such as:

  • Age
  • Genes
  • Having previously had breast cancer
  • Infertility/fertility treatment
  • Using a coil
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Weight and height
  • Endometriosis
  • Talcum Powder
  • Smoking

In February this year, there was an American case involving the company Johnson & Johnson who were successfully sued and had to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. The argument in this case was that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder contains two ingredients that are potentially carcinogenic. $10 million was awarded in actual damages and $62 million was awarded in punitive damages (damages awarded as a form of punishment). It is important to mention here that in the UK we don’t generally have punitive damages in product liability or medical negligence cases. We have restorative damages, which means that they aim to put you back in the position you would have been in but for the negligence.

Cancer Research UK have suggested that the reason why talcum powder may cause ovarian cancer is because the powder may be able to move up into the vagina, through the cervix, into the womb and then from there from the fallopian tubes into the ovaries. Cancer Research UK believe that the irritation this could cause could result in inflammation and that this could lead to cancerous cells being produced.

For most woman who receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, surgery is the main treatment. If the cancer is quite advanced then they may need surgery and chemotherapy.

The NICE guidelines state that a woman should be referred urgently if upon a physical examination ascites, pelvic or abdominal masses are detected. The NICE guidelines also state that tests should be carried out in primary care where a woman frequently experiences:

  • Bloating
  • Feeling full
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Increased urgency/frequency to urinate

Ovarian cancer like most cancers require an early diagnosis to achieve the best possible outcome. For this reason GPs should see the above symptoms and act fast by either carrying out the appropriate tests or making a referral to an oncologist. Depending on the type of ovarian cancer ultrasounds and CT scan should be carried out in secondary care to help reach a diagnosis.

Here at Metcalfes we have an experienced team of Medical Negligence Lawyers who can offer you specialist advice.   We deal with all areas of medical negligence including delayed diagnosis. If you believe that you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical negligence then please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Further Reading: 

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Ovarian cancer

Gillian Clark

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