Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries - and in most cases, it isn’t diagnosed until it has progressed to an advanced stage. This is because early-stage symptoms either aren’t apparent or they are mimicking symptoms of common stomach and digestive illnesses. Certain risk factors, including being overweight and a history of ovarian cancer in the family, may increase your chances of being diagnosed. Ovarian cancer research clinical trials are underway, but it's still good for patients to be educated about detecting ovarian cancer early.
When signs and symptoms are present, the most common ones include:
- Bloating - Bloating can be a common symptom of PMS or eating a lot of salt. However, if you have a sudden increase in the size of your abdomen it could also signal a problem with your ovarian health. You may or may not have pain along with bloating.
- Pain or discomfort in the abdominal (belly) or pelvic area - Pain or a feeling of pressure in the abdomen or pelvis that can't be explained by cramps or constipation.
- Changes in appetite or feelings of fullness - Some women with ovarian cancer will notice they suddenly have trouble eating or are full very quickly. If you can't explain these changes in your appetite due to stress or other known stomach problems, you should schedule an appointment with your physician.
- Urgency or frequency to urinate - Because your bladder and ovaries are close together, your urinary tract can be affected by the health of your ovaries.
- Changes in Menstruation Cycle -A change to your period cycle, such as heavier or irregular bleeding, could be related to ovarian health. If you are premenopausal and suddenly have more painful periods or an irregular cycle, you should schedule a physical with your doctor. This is especially true if you are unable to manage a regular and pain-free cycle even while on oral birth control. Similarly, if you are postmenopausal and have unexpected bleeding you should go to a gynecologist for an exam.
Symptoms tend to be persistent and an obvious change from normal if they are caused by ovarian cancer rather than another condition. If you notice any of these signs for a prolonged period of time or they can't be explained, visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Some other ovarian cancer symptoms can include:
- Back pain
- Upset stomach
- Pain during sex
- Swelling in the abdomen (belly) with weight loss
Early detection is key for overcoming ovarian cancer. If you experience these symptoms more than 12 times a month, seek medical attention so your doctor can diagnose the problem and treat it if necessary.