As the symptoms of ovarian cancer appear late, the chances of cure are very poor. Therefore, it is known as a silent killer. According to the statistics released by 'The American Cancer Society', only around 20% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. It is one of the most common causes of death from cancer in women. This cancer is more common than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Most of its symptoms are similar to the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders and mostly go unnoticed.
Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer may affect only one ovary or both the ovaries. With advancement of the cancer, healthy cells in the ovaries turn into malignant tumors. The prognosis is usually very poor, as the tumors are not visible in the initial stage. But, many times, the tumors are found benign. So, don't panic if the doctor says that you have a tumor in an ovary. Cancer treatment depends upon the stage at which it is diagnosed, the overall health of the patient and how much the cancer has spread out. It is obvious that the survival rate is maximum for the cancer that is detected during the preliminary stage. The following section throws light on the early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Gastrointestinal disorders like gases, nausea, indigestion, constipation, change in bowel movement, etc. are some of the common warning signs of ovarian cancer. You should not neglect these problems, considering them 'minor digestion problems'. If such problems are often affecting your activities, you should consult your physician.
Abdominal Swelling: Abdominal swelling or bloating is one of the common signs of the cancer. Such signs are likely to be interpreted wrongly for digestive system disorders like gas or indigestion. Swelling and pain in the abdomen needs prompt medical attention.
Unexplained Weight Loss or Weight Gain: If you experience weight loss or weight gain without any specific efforts, then you should consult a doctor. It often indicates serious health problems like cancer.
Fever: Fever can occur due to innumerable causes and no one takes it seriously if it is mild. But if you have fever over weeks and if it is followed by excessive fatigue, you should consult your doctor, as early as possible.
Changes in Menstruation: Changes in menstruation should be discussed with the doctor immediately. Many times, they indicate development of cancer in the ovaries or uterus.
Difficulty in Breathing: Breathing difficulty is not a common sign of ovarian cancer. But, some women may experience shortness of breath with the growth of cancer in the ovaries.
Pain during Intercourse: A woman with cancer of the ovaries may experience pain during intercourse. As such pain is experienced due to lack of lubrication, the woman tends to ignore the pain.
Back Pain: Generally lower back pain is experienced by women who have ovarian cancer. As this type of pain is very common in women, it normally goes unnoticed.
History of Breast Cancer: If a woman herself has breast cancer or a family member has had breast cancer, then the risk of having ovarian cancer is high. Women with cancer of the uterus, colon, or rectum are more prone to ovarian cancer.
Urinary Problems: Urinary problems like urgency, burning sensation or spasms are some of the common warning signs of the cancer.
Vaginal Discharge: Any kind of excessive vaginal discharge or bleeding is one of the main warning signs of the cancer.
Loss of Appetite: Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full is one of the commonly observed symptoms of cancer.
Increased Abdominal Girth: Tight fitting clothes or increased abdominal size is one of the important symptoms.
Pelvic Pain: Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain and discomfort is often experienced by women who have this cancer.
Pelvic Pressure: Pelvic pressure or feeling 'full' is often noticed by women, but the symptom is always overlooked.
Family History: Family history of ovarian cancer increases the risk for the cancer. So it should be considered as a warning sign of cancer. It is true that all women with family history of cancer do not develop cancer; but routine checkup should never be skipped or neglected.
If any of the aforementioned warning signs are noticed, the woman should immediately undergo a pelvic examination including the recto-vaginal component, CA-125 blood test and the trans-vaginal ultrasound. You must have noticed that almost all early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are likely to be misdiagnosed. Women diagnosed with this type of cancer usually say that they had the feeling that something wrong was happening in the body. Even though women experience sudden and persistent changes in the bodily systems, they tend to neglect them for years. If symptoms are not corrected on time, they lead to a health crisis.
Who are at Risk?
Women over the age 55 and women who had never been pregnant are more likely to develop cancer of the ovaries. Some studies show that excessive intake of estrogen (without progesterone and over a decade or more), excessive intake of certain fertility drugs and obesity increase the chances of having the cancer. More studies are needed to prove these findings. Family history of ovarian cancer increases a woman's risk of developing the cancer.
Increased awareness about the early signs of cancer can help save some lives. Those who are at the risk of developing ovarian cancer should avoid smoking and alcohol abuse. Healthy and balanced diet, regular exercise, regular medical checkup can help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. I hope this article effectively conveys the message that if a woman suffering from abdominal disorders doesn't get relief even after proper treatment, she should undergo advanced tests.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.