Ovarian cancer is also known as the “silent killer” since it has very subtle symptoms; they usually seem like the common menstrual symptoms. The American Cancer Society claims that only about 30% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the later stages stay alive five years later. Ovarian cancer is a cancer that forms in an ovary. It results in abnormal cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. When this process begins, there may be no or only vague symptoms. Symptoms become more noticeable as the cancer progresses. These symptoms may include bloating, pelvic pain, abdominal swelling, and loss of appetite, among others. Common areas to which the cancer may spread include the lining of the abdomen, lining of the bowel and bladder, lymph nodes, lungs, and liver.
In other words, for every 10 women with ovarian cancer only about three of them will be alive in 5 years. This happens because there are no good screening tests for late and early detection of ovarian cancer.
It is usually discovered at a very advanced stage because there are a couple of symptoms that can convince you that something is not right. Symptoms are usually mild and vague. Women may feel bloating in the lower abdomen, fullness or a mild congestion in the pelvis, which usually feel like PMS symptoms.
The risk of having ovarian cancer increases with age. This type of cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the US and the 2nd most common gynecological cancer. But, the death rate from ovarian cancer is greater, since it’s not detected on time. But, don’t wait.
If you are having an unusual symptom, and if this symptom persists for more than two weeks, don’t ignore it. Go to the doctor’s office and get a pelvic exam. But since the office visits are usually short, some doctors will ignore your concern and won’t perform a very meticulous exam. And even though many women visit their doctors with abdominal symptoms, every problem needs to be taken seriously.
The best method is ask your doctor to do a manual pelvic exam, in order to check for abnormal growths and a pelvic ultrasound. If there is something unusual you can also schedule a CT Scan and blood tests which can include HE4 and CA-125, but these tumor markers may not be increased in all patients. An exploratory surgery may be performed in order to support the diagnosis.
There are gynecologic surgeons who specialize in women’s surgeries and even more specialized doctors that focus exclusively on women’s cancers. Always seek the most specialized and experienced surgeon for best diagnosis and care.
Women that receive medical care from gynecologic surgeons usually get more accurate diagnosis, better treatment and have more favorable outcomes. Seek for a doctor, that can accurately asses the stage and the level of risk of reappearance. The doctor will then determine the best course of treatment.
Women who have family history of colorectal, ovarian and breast cancers have greater risk and should do frequent pelvic exams, ultrasound and CA-125 blood tests at least twice a year.
The following symptoms are the most common signs of ovary cancer but they can also be associated with other conditions. That’s why a thorough checkup is essential. The persistence of the symptoms is the distinctive characteristic of many cancers.
Please, don’t wait for more than 2 weeks if the symptoms are still present!! You don’t have to experience all listed symptoms. Even one of them can be a sign that can save your life.
These are the 10 most important signs of ovary cancer:
• Pressure, fullness, abdominal bloating
• Pelvic discomfort or pain
• Frequent urination
• Pain during sex
• Loss of appetite or fullness after eating
• Indigestion or persistent gas
• Lower back pain
• Increased abdomen size