According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women.
It’s estimated that about 20,000 women in the United States will develop ovarian cancer this year.
About 15,000 deaths from ovarian cancer will occur in American women during that same time frame.
Your chances of surviving ovarian cancer are better if the cancer is found early.
But because the disease is difficult to detect in its early stage, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found before tumor growth has spread into adjacent tissues and organs beyond the ovaries.
Most of the time, the disease has already advanced before it’s diagnosed. Still, if a woman suddenly starts experiencing any of the symptoms below, and they persist for more than a 2-3 weeks, she should get those symptoms checked out.
Contact your MD if you develop one or more of these symptoms and they persist for 2-3 weeks:
Warning signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer
- Abdominal Swelling/Bloating/Clothes Too Tight
- Abdominal/Pelvic Pain or Pressure or Feeling “Full” Pelvic pain is defined as abdominal pain (Abdominal pain and Ovarian cancer) below the level of the naval (umbilicus). Because the female reproductive system is fairly crowded in the pelvic area (sharing it with the urinary and lower intestinal systems), tumors can produce pressure on other structures and cause pain. Sometimes this pain might show up with certain movements, or sexual intercourse. Persistent pelvic pain of unknown cause should always be reported to your doctor, including pain with intercourse. Note: Pain associated with menstrual periods (“cramping”) is not a warning sign of cancer.
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms (such as gas, indigestion, nausea, or changes in bowel movements) Tumors or swelling pressing on the digestive system can cause symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, gas, or a constant feeling of “fullness”, regardless of the last meal. However, most sources of digestive discomfort are within that system (intestines, colon, etc). Any change in bowel habits or the above symptoms that lasts more than 2-3 weeks should be reported to your doctor.
- Vaginal Bleeding or Discharge
- Urinary Problems – Urgency, Burning, or Spasms
- Fatigue and/or Fever
- Pain During Intercourse
- Low Back Pain – Less commonly, low back pain can signal ovarian or uterine cancer, or other abnormalities in those organs. There are many non-cancerous conditions that cause low back pain.
- Difficulty Breathing
A word about Pap tests and other screening procedures: Although knowing the symptoms of cancer is important, nothing can substitute for the screening tests we have available: the annual pelvic exam, which should include the Pap test, bimanual exam, and recto-vaginal exam.
These tests have the potential to detect cancer before it causes symptoms. Women at high risk for certain cancers may be advised to have other screening procedures, such as a transvaginal ultrasound test or CA 125 blood test.
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