Womens Health

Early Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer has been called the "silent killer" since it normally creeps up on its victims only to be discovered in its advanced stages. In 70-75 percent of cases the cancer has already spread to other parts of the abdomen by the time it is detected. However, there is beginning to be more evidence that ovarian cancer isn't as silent as originally thought, and there are warning signs that women can look out for.

Why The Symptoms Are Not Publicized

The reason why it has taken so long to acknowledge the early symptoms of ovarian cancer is because it is unknown what percentage of early-stage ovarian cancer produces symptoms. While the majority of women experience symptoms, since the cancer is only diagnosed in more advanced stages, it's hard to tell how many women had symptoms before the cancer spread. But it is known that 90% of women diagnosed during Stage 1 go to their doctors with symptoms before diagnosis. Thus, it is reasonable to assume many women do experience ovarian cancer warning signs.

Another reason why the early signs of ovarian cancer are not highly publicized is that the common symptoms are nonspecific. Symptoms like urinary problems and fatigue can be the result of a number of different conditions, so they don't always spell out ovarian cancer.

On top of this, there is also no one "marker symptom" or ovarian cancer. Though the most common early warning sign of ovarian cancer is swelling or bloating of the abdomen, not all women experience this, but they do experience other symptoms. Since different women experience different warning signs, and a whole constellation of symptoms are connected with ovarian cancer, it's hard to publicize a few as "for sure" symptoms, and women have to learn to be aware of them all.

Early Warning Signs

Because the early symptoms of ovarian cancer are not highly publicized, and because there are so may and thy can vary a great deal, it is all the more important that women educate themselves on what to look for.

Here are the early warning signs that can be associated with ovarian cancer:

  • Abdominal Swelling/Bloating/Clothes Too Tight
  • Abdominal/Pelvic Pain or Pressure or Feeling "Full"
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms (gas, indigestion, nausea, changes in bowel movements)
  • Vaginal Bleeding or Discharge
  • Urinary Problems (Urgency, Burning, Spasms)
  • Fatigue and/or Fever
  • Pain During Intercourse
  • Back Pain
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Appetite Loss
  • Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss
If you develop any of these symptoms and they persist for 2-3 weeks, get checked out by your doctor.

The most common symptoms out of all of these is crampt abdominal pain which lasts for longer than 2 weeks and isn’t associated with diarrhoea or vomiting. This occurs in 22% of cases. 18% of cases show urinary symptoms that grow increasingly worse. Fewer than a quarter of women actually showed gynecological symptoms (like irregular vaginal bleeding) prior to diagnosis, which in part explains why many doctors don't think of ovarian cancer at first when women come to them with its symptoms - at first glance it looks more like a gastrointestinal or urinary tract problem.

Women who at high risk for ovarian cancer should be especially aware of the early warning signs and see their doctor right away if they experience any of them.

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