Ovarian cancer is often referred to as a silent killer. This is because many people do not realize they have the disease until it is in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are ones that a woman may experience during her natural menstrual cycle.
Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
For many women, the early symptoms of ovarian cancer are ones that can be quickly dismissed without much thought. These symptoms include:
- Bloating in the abdominal area
- Feeling pressure or pain in the abdomen
- Having a feeling of fullness after meals - even small meals
- Having a change in the urge and frequency of needing to urinate
By themselves, having one of the above symptoms does not mean you have ovarian cancer. If you have multiple symptoms, speak with your gynecologist. This is especially true if you have the symptoms throughout your cycle or if you don’t notice any improvement. Some other symptoms of the disease include:
- Feeling fatigued
- Experiencing frequent indigestion and heartburn
- Becoming constipated
- Having persistent back pain
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Pain during intercourse
Detecting Ovarian Cancer
Only 20 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed during the earliest stages of the disease. This is partially due to the types of symptoms of the disease. Additionally, ovarian cancer may be difficult to feel during a physical exam unless your doctor is specifically looking for the disease, particularly if it is a small tumor. As the tumor grows, more symptoms are experienced. Unfortunately, as the tumor grows it often spreads to other parts of the body, making the cancer more difficult to treat. Therefore, diagnosing ovarian cancer early is the best way to effectively treat the disease. Certain women are at a greater risk for developing ovarian cancer, and should be routinely screened:
- Women who have a family medical history that includes ovarian cancer
- Women who know they have a genetic mutation of genes that are associated with ovarian cancer
- Women who have had other cancers
If you have the symptoms of ovarian cancer, schedule an appointment with a doctor. Early diagnosis improves success rates and makes ovarian cancer easier to treat.
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