Ovarian cancer was for many years referred to as a silent killer because it was not typically found in the early stages. Until very recently, ovarian cancer was not found until it had had the opportunity to spread to other parts of the body. Today, it is believed that many women may have experienced ovarian cancer symptoms in the earlier stages of the disease yet had no idea what those symptoms were pointing to.
As with any cancer, early detection is crucial. Even today most cases of ovarian cancer spread to other areas of the body before the disease is found. The earlier it is found however, the better your chance of survival. The problem is that most ovarian cancer symptoms are nonspecific. They often mimic the symptoms of other illnesses like bladder and digestive problems. Women with ovarian cancer are very often misdiagnosed or diagnosed with another condition before the cancer is found. Stress, irritable bowel syndrome and depression are disorders that are often diagnosed in women who have ovarian cancer. The key to finding the cancer is when the symptoms do not improve with treatment or get worse.
Common ovarian cancer symptoms include urinary urgency and frequency, abdominal swelling, bloating or pressure and a mild to moderate discomfort in the pelvic area or any pain in the pelvic area. These are the most commonly reported symptoms but it is important to keep in mind that no two women are alike and some women may never experience all of the symptoms or only one or two of them. Other symptoms of the disease include unexplained changes in bowel habits like sudden diarrhea or constipation and persistent gas, indigestion or nausea. You may notice a loss of appetite or feeling full much more quickly than normal. Increased abdominal girth or a seemingly sudden weight gain in the abdominal area is also a symptom. If you notice your clothing fitting much tighter around the waist area suddenly or if you experience pain during intercourse that you have never experienced before, these are also symptoms of ovarian cancer. Other signs of this disease include changes in menstruation, lower back pain that remains persistent and a lack of energy.
If you notice bloating, swelling pain or sudden pressure in your abdominal area or pelvic area that comes on suddenly and lasts for more than just a week or so, you should schedule an appointment with your physician. It is important to understand that even if you have received another diagnosis but you are not being relieved of the pain or discomfort from the treatment that you were given, you should contact your physician again. If needed, get a second opinion. Remember that many women have been misdiagnosed or diagnosed with another problem when they did indeed have ovarian cancer. You simply can never be too certain. Be sure that your physician gives you a pelvic examination as part of your evaluation when you are diagnosed.
If you or someone in your family has a history of ovarian cancer, you are at a much higher risk for the disease. You should speak with your doctor or see a doctor who is trained to detect the disease in the early stages to ensure your protection from this cancer. While the exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known, many researchers feel that it is linked to the process in which tissues are repaired during the menstrual cycle. When the eggs from the ovaries are released during your monthly cycle, a tiny tear develops in the ovarian follicle. Researchers feel that the formation and division of the new cells that develop at this rupture site is what ultimately leads to ovarian cancer. Many other doctors and scientists believe that the disease is caused by increased hormone levels that are evident both before and after ovulation and that these increased hormones may possibly stimulate the growth of the abnormal cells that results in ovarian cancer. Whatever the causes, it is imperative that you visit your doctor regularly during your reproductive years and always schedule an appointment immediately if you notice any of the above ovarian cancer symptoms.