Fifth of women ‘wrongly believe smear tests detect ovarian cancer’

A double decker bus highlights the symptoms of ovarian cancer Credit: Lothian/Target Ovarian Cancer/PA

One in five UK women mistakenly think a smear test can detect ovarian cancer, according to new research.

Smear tests are in fact used to detect cervical cancer and the misconception puts 22% of UK women, a total of more than five million people, at risk, a survey carried out by Target Ovarian Cancer and YouGov has indicated.

More women died from ovarian cancer in the UK (4,227) than from all other gynaecological cancers combined in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK.

Pat Taylor, 67, from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017.

She said: “I had always thought cervical screening detected ovarian cancer, and that I was covered when I had my smear tests.

“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 after a two-year delay, it was such a shock.

“Now I want all women to be vigilant of the symptoms of ovarian cancer – better awareness will save lives.”

Symptoms for ovarian cancer include persistently feeling bloated, a loss of appetite, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate more regularly and urgently, according to charity Target Ovarian Cancer.

Annwen Jones, chief executive of the charity, said: “We need to combat the confusion around ovarian cancer and cervical screening, because while smear tests are a vital tool in public health, a similar option simply does not exist in ovarian cancer.”

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, when Target Ovarian Cancer tries to raise awareness of the disease.

Ms Jones added: “While we welcome Government investment in raising awareness of the cervical screening programme this March, the ovarian cancer community is painfully aware that 11 women die every day from ovarian cancer and we urgently need to see a national ovarian cancer symptoms awareness campaign.”

– As part of the survey, YouGov asked 1,070 women about ovarian cancer.