It is estimated that ovarian cancer affects 1 of 57 women as the fourth leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Although ovarian cancer is a treatable condition if it is diagnosed early, the disturbing fact is that only 24% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed early enough. Thus the chances of survival diminish as time passes by. Consequently, it is important for women to look out for early symptoms of ovarian cancer.
To help people recognize the signs of ovarian cancer, the American Cancer Society in 2007, published some guidelines. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer can be bloating, gas, a “full” feeling, tiredness, irregular periods, abdominal or pelvic pain, and intense or frequent urination. Having a hard time eating or feeling full too early after beginning to eat are also signs of the presence of ovarian cancer.
Women who are at risk for ovarian cancer should monitor and report any suspicious symptoms to their doctor in order to have it diagnosed early. Right now, early ovarian cancer cannot be definitively detected by any one screening examination. Certain symptoms like menstrual irregularities or pelvic pain is not always indicative of ovarian cancer, but awareness of any early symptoms of ovarian cancer is helpful in saving lives.
Any early symptoms of ovarian cancer should be followed up with a visit with your doctor, who may then also recommend a bimanual pelvic examination, transvaginal ultrasound, and Ca125 blood test. Some risk factors for ovarian cancer include having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations, not having used birth control pills, never having been pregnant, or being diagnosed with breast cancer before 50 years of age.
Some women have higher risks of contracting ovarian cancer. Among the classes of women at elevated risk are Ashkenazi Jews, women with at least two relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer, those exposed to fertility drugs, and those over 50 years of age. For these women, it is even more important to be monitored regularly for early symptoms of ovarian cancer.
The difficulty with ovarian cancer comes because early symptoms of ovarian cancer may not necessarily be cancer. Many of these symptoms can instead be related to other conditions, such as ovarian cysts, or irritable bowel syndrome. For this reason, women should seek medical attention whenever these symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks.
It is very important for women to know the early symptoms of ovarian cancer, in order to stop this deadly disease in its tracks. Since more than 6% of cancer deaths in women are a result of ovarian cancer, women and their doctors must remain vigilant at all times.