Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Early Warning Signs

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Although ovarian cancer has sometimes been described as a silent killer we now know that there are some early warning signs. The earlier this type of cancer is detected the better chance a patient has for survival. Although awareness of symptoms is vital the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition reports that only 19% of ovarian cancer is found in the early stages. Part of the problem is that the symptoms can be vague and overlap other less serious conditions such as indigestion or a bladder infection. Another reason why early detection is difficult is that there is no official screening test for ovarian cancer. The PAP smear, for example, does not detect ovarian cancer. For these reasons it is all the more essential that women are aware of early signs of this deadly type of cancer. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has designated September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Please help spread the word about these early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Please see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms nearly every day for more than two to three weeks:

  • Bloating or increased abdominal size

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly

  • Urinary urgency, having to go often or always feeling as if you have to go.

Here are some additional symptoms to look out for as they can be associated with ovarian cancer:

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Excessive gas

  • Changes in your menstrual cycle

  • Pain during sex

  • Lack of appetite

  • Sense of pelvic heaviness or lower abdominal discomfort

  • Persistent and unexplained back pain

A key fact to remember is that ovarian cancer symptoms will be persistent, meaning that they do not go away and that they worsen over time. Ovarian cancer symptoms will persist despite diet changes, the use of laxatives, or treatments for indigestion. Every woman knows her body. If you feel that something just isn't right listen to your gut instinct.

Some of the risk factors associated with ovarian cancer include:

  • Prior diagnosis of other types of cancer especially cancers of the breast, colon, rectum or uterus.

  • Having a family history of ovarian cancer.

  • Advanced age: The American Cancer Society reports that most ovarian cancers develop after menopause and that half of all ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women who are over the age of 63.

  • No pregnancies: Those women who have never been pregnant are at an increased risk to develop ovarian cancer.

You can read more about possible risk factors for ovarian cancer from The American Cancer Society.

Ovarian cancer symptoms are sometimes missed and dismissed by both doctors and gynecologists. Writing a log of your symptoms can give a concrete account of what you may be experiencing to take to your doctor. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance has a downloadable symptom diary   so you can take note of any symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. Be persistent and assertive with your doctor if you have been experiencing any of the symptoms listed above for over two weeks. It may save your life.

The following are national organizations which provide both information and support for patients with ovarian cancer and their loved ones:

In addition here are some Health Central articles on ovarian cancer detection, diagnosis, and treatment: