By: Beth Walsh for Uterus1
Due to a series of vague signs and symptoms, ovarian cancer often isn’t diagnosed until late stages. However, three organizations released a consensus statement that there are, in fact, specific symptoms that begin early in the disease. These symptoms should drive women to be further evaluated by a physician, preferably a gynecologist. They are: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency. Any woman experiencing these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should tell her doctor.
| Call Your Doctor If You Have Recurrent:|
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency
The two ovaries, on each side of the uterus, produce eggs and the female sex hormones. Ovarian cancer is a disease in which normal ovarian cells begin to grow in an uncontrolled, abnormal manner and produce tumors in one or both ovaries. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. They estimate more than 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer and more than 15,000 deaths from ovarian cancer this year in the United States.
There is no known cause of ovarian cancer. It most often develops, however, after menopause, and risk increases with age. If ovarian cancer runs in your family – or you have a first-degree relative who has had the disease – discuss possible screening and testing with your health care provider.
"Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies," said the statement issued by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, and the American Cancer Society. "The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that even early-stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms.
"Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved diagnosis," according to the statement. Only 19 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at a stage when treatment has the best chance of extending survival beyond five years.
The consensus statement also noted that although several other symptoms have been reported by women with ovarian cancer – fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities – those symptoms aren’t as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also common among women without ovarian cancer.