Cancer can be a deadly disease or a treatable condition based on the stage of diagnosis. When diagnosed early, most cancer can be managed with an appropriate course of treatment. The same applies to ovarian cancer. When diagnosed at an early stage, ovarian cancer is highly treatable and most women continue to live their life to the fullest. For early diagnosis, it is a must that women are aware of early warning signs of the ovarian cancer. Many women, unfortunately, overlook the warning signs of ovarian cancer, and it doesn’t get diagnosed until it has worsened. To avoid such condition, it is best to understand and know about the symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer. This article highlights the warning signs of ovarian cancer one should never overlook and the risk factors.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is the proliferative growth of cells in the ovaries. The ovaries are the egg-producing organ of the female reproductive system, which is primarily controlled by hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Cancer in the ovary in most cases goes undetected until it has reached the pelvis and abdomen. Cancer is easy to treat when it is confined to the ovaries, and this is possible with early diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer symptoms are mostly vague, and the key is to pay attention to how long signs last. Talk to a doctor if the symptoms sustain. See a doctor if they don’t fade away within one to three weeks, or with the use of over-the-counter medications.
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms like urgency or frequency
- Fatigue Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Changes in periods, like heavier bleeding or irregular bleeding
- Abdominal swelling with weight loss
Let us discuss the most common early warning signs:
Almost every woman has felt bloating, which is feeling uncomfortable and in the belly. While it is nothing to worry about to feel bloated, especially around the periods, consistent bloating that doesn’t go away and lasts daily for about three weeks is not.
Feeling full and bloated daily for three weeks is one of the most common early warning signs of ovarian cancer. Bloating along with abdominal distension that is visible swelling in the stomach is a red flag that a woman should never ignore.
Gastrointestinal issues are associated with everything from anxiety to irritable bowel syndrome. Ovarian cancer also comes under that. When it comes to ovarian cancer, constipation is a common gastrointestinal symptom. One should pay attention to sudden constipation and prolonged ones, especially when there is no relief by general intervention. Constipation often leads to feeling bloated.
Consistent and prolonged pain
Persistent pain in the abdomen and pelvis that lasts for about three weeks is a red flag for an underlying condition. While this vague ovarian cancer sign can be a result of various other conditions, the key is to see if the pain is new, it doesn’t appear suddenly and fade, and cannot be easily associated with other reasons. If the pain subsides when stress is alleviated, then the pain is more related to stress than cancer. If the pain improves when diets changes are made, it is most likely a gastrointestinal tract-related problem. Unfortunately, it is tough to differentiate between ovarian cancer and GI- or stress-related symptoms.
In case of pain that is not going away, the doctor would conduct the following tests:
- A pelvic exam
- A GI evaluation
- exam (e.g., endoscopy, colonoscopy)
- Blood tests
- CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound
When women have urinary problems like pain while urinating or urgency to urinate, they think it is a urinary tract infection. In most cases it is, but it can also be a red flag for ovary cancer. Bladder-related issues might be a signal for a gynecologic or reproductive problem such as ovarian cancer. Specific urinary signs for ovarian cancer include:
- Pressure or pain in the urinary bladder
- Frequent urination
- Urgent need to urinate
If such urinary symptoms seem new and last for more than a week, that is a serious issue. The patient should talk to an OBGYN and express the symptoms and signs related to the urinary and get it diagnosed.
Non-Period Bleeding or Discharge
In case the patient observes spotting between their periods or has bloody and smelly discharge they should consult a doctor immediately. Such signs can occur due to infection in the reproductive tract. But sometimes it can also be a sign of ovarian cancer or cancer in the reproductive organs. If the patient has attained menopause and observes bleeding, they shouldn’t delay and book an appointment with OB-GYN.
Loss of Appetite
Tumors around the digestive tract can have an impact on one’s appetite. The appetite would be affected to a great extent due to bloated and full. This may lead to unintended weight loss.
- A history of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer in the family
- Prior history of breast cancer
- Presence of specific BRCA1 or BRAC2 gene mutation
- Genetic risk factor for breast or ovarian cancer
- First full-term pregnancy after 35
- Never had a full-term pregnancy
- hormone therapy following menopause
- fertility treatments
- hormone-based medications
- having Lynch syndrome
- An Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
When to consult a doctor?
Ovarian cancer is highly tough to diagnose in the early stages and extremely difficult to treat in later stages. Therefore, women should not overlook any new persistent symptoms and contact a doctor on the appearance of symptoms. One should see a doctor if the pelvic or abdominal symptoms
- Persist even with local treatment
- Present daily or most days
- Doesn’t point to any other condition
- Doesn’t show any response to over-the-counter treatment or home remedies
- Lasts for more than 2 weeks.
The best thing a woman can do to treat ovary cancer is to be aware of the early signs and, consider going for a check-up at the best hospital.