A diagnosis of ovarian cancer is shocking news. Your life as you know it has forever changed. But cancer is not the death sentence it once was. Ovarian cancer, caught in its earliest stages can be beaten, and according to the American Cancer Society (ACS) the survival rate in this scenario is almost 93%.
Ovarian cancer used to be known as the "silent killer" because in its earliest, most treatable stages, the cancer causes no noticeable symptoms. Now, research has found that there are indeed symptoms in the early stages of the disease. It is hoped that making women more aware of these symptoms will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Identifying ovarian cancer early on is crucial. Finding it early is your best chance for survival. Even so, only 20% of ovarian cancers are found before they metastasize or spread to other areas of the body.
The problem with catching the cancer early is that the symptoms are nonspecific and can be mistaken for those of more common medical ailments, for instance digestive and bladder conditions. Often times, a woman will receive a misdiagnosis and by the time the truth is realized, the cancer is advanced. Women with ovarian cancer have been misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and even plain old stress.
For a physician, one warning sign is the persistence of symptoms that worsen with time. In digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, the symptoms tend to come and go and these symptoms are often linked to specific foods or situations. In ovarian cancer, however, the symptoms are present at all times and grow in severity.
One study found that women who have ovarian cancer have a greater chance of experiencing the following symptoms:
*Abdominal pressure, bloating, swelling, or fullness
Other signs and symptoms associated with ovarian cancer include:
*Lower back pain
*Constant low energy
*Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
*Abdominal width increases and clothes feel tight at the waist
*No appetite, becoming full fast
*Frequent urination or other bladder changes
*Changes in bowel movements, for instance constipation
*Constant indigestion, nausea, or gas
Call your doctor if you have pain, or a feeling of pressure or fullness in your abdomen or pelvis that has lasted for more than three weeks. If you're diagnosed with a different condition, but don't improve with treatment and time, make another appointment with your physician or see a second doctor. Be polite, but insist on receiving a pelvic exam.
If your family history includes ovarian or breast cancer, you may want to find a doctor who has more experience with detecting and treating these ailments. Your doctor can advise you now, while you're in good health, on matters like screening, genetic testing, and treatment options.