About Ovarian Cancer

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer has the reputation of being a "silent killer". But many women know, and science has confirmed, that ovarian cancer DOES have symptoms.

Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from "normal" for their bodies. The frequency and  or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. 

95% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer report having had one or more of these four common symptoms:

  • Bloating

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Urinary urgency or frequency

  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month and the symptoms are new or unusual for you.

In 2007, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance and other leading cancer organizations endorsed a consensus statement on ovarian cancer symptoms.

As medical research continues to investigate this important issue, numerous studies have been published indicating that symptoms may not occur until late stage or that they may not improve health outcomes.  Symptoms are important, but they are not a definitive diagnostic tool.  Since there is no diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer, symptom awareness remains of key importance.  Being aware of symptoms can help women get diagnosed sooner. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.

Other Symptoms Associated with Ovarian Cancer

Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.

Source: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance

The Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance encourages women to track any persistent symptoms and take that information to their doctor and ask them to rule out ovarian cancer by administering a Trans-Vaginal Ultrasound (TVU), pelvic / rectal exam, and CA125 blood test.

Are some women at higher risk than others?

ALL women are at risk, and the risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age. But, there is also an increased risk for these populations:

  • Women with a family history of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer
  • Jewish women
  • Women of Hispanic heritage, including those in Colorado's San Luis Valley
  • Women who have never been pregnant
  • Women who have never used birth control pills
  • Those who use infertility treatments
  • Obese women

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries (women’s reproductive glands that produce eggs or ova). Cancer that spreads to the ovaries but originates at another site is not considered ovarian cancer. 

Ovarian tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Although abnormal, cells of benign tumors do not metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). Malignant cancer cells in the ovaries can metastasize in two ways:  directly to other organs in the pelvis and abdomen (the more common way), through the bloodstream or lymph nodes to other parts of the body.

While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, some theories exist: Genetic errors may occur because of damage from the normal monthly release of an egg. Increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.

Source: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance

Are there different types of ovarian cancer?

What are the stages of ovarian cancer?

Why is ovarian cancer so misunderstood?

  • Annual gynecological exam does NOT check for this cancer 

  • 20,000 Americans/330 Coloradans diagnosed annually

  • It does NOT happen only to older women – all women and girls at risk

  • There’s NO specific screening tool for ovarian cancer - undefined symptoms are key

  • Majority of women with ovarian cancer had no family history of it

  • The medical community often misses diagnosing this cancer

  • While nicknamed “the silent killer,” the latest research shows OC is NOT silent, with four common symptoms: Bloating, Abdominal Pressure or Pain, Feeling Full Quickly when eating a meal, Urinary Frequency or Urgency.

I have symptoms. What do I do?

  • Know the symptoms - listen to your body-  know the 4 most common symptoms (Bloating, Abmoninal Pressure or Pain, Feeling Full Quickly when eating a meal, Urinary Urgency or Frequency)

  • DON’T WAIT!  If you’ve had one or more symptoms for more than a few weeks in any given month, see a gynecologist as soon as possible. Ask the doctor to RULE OUT ovarian cancer. Request a transvaginal ultrasound (TVU), pelvic / rectal exam, and a CA125 blood test. 

  • Advocate for yourself in your doctor’s office - missed diagnosis is common.

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