Cancer! The very word tends to make people nervous. Cancer is a constellation of conditions that we don’t know nearly as much about as we wish we did. The treatments that we have can be very arduous. Although we don’t hear as much about ovarian cancer as we do breast cancer, it is a very serious – and not terribly uncommon – problem for women. For all of these reasons, many people would rather pretend that cancer doesn’t exist than keep an eye out for the possible warning signs of cancer.
But this is a counterproductive attitude. The truth is that the earlier cancer is caught, the better the odds of remission. It’s important to take responsibility for looking out for the warning signs or symptoms of cancer. If you are experiencing these signs, you should get checked out right away to rule out cancer or, if it is present, to get started on treatment as soon as possible. As we develop more and better treatment options, the odds of a good outcome are ever increasing. Ovarian cancer, in particular, is often very treatable in its earliest stages.
Ovarian cancer is defined as any cancer that starts in the ovaries, which are a woman’s egg-producing organs. From there, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. It is harder to treat if it has spread, which is why early detection is so important. And ovarian cancer is not a terribly uncommon disease. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with this type of cancer this year. A woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer at some point during her lifetime is estimated to be around 1 in 75.
The following is a list of warning signs of ovarian cancer. Often, patients get nervous or embarrassed about discussing these types of symptoms with a health care provider, but there is no reason to be. If you are experiencing any of the troublesome symptoms below, you should get checked out by a health care professional as soon as possible.
Having a sudden, overwhelming urge to urinate or experiencing bouts of incontinence can be a sign of ovarian cancer. If you are having a lot of trouble making it to the bathroom in time, you should have it checked out. This is particularly true if these symptoms seem to be getting worse over a period of time.
UNEXPLAINED PAIN IN ABDOMEN
Here, we are talking about a type of pain that differs from menstrual cramps or the feeling of heartburn. Most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer had complained about persistent pain in their abdomen. This pain lasted more than a few weeks and could not be explained by any other mechanism, such as a stomach virus, injury or menstrual cycle.
If you frequently have a feeling of gas pain or pressure in your pelvis or your abdomen, this is another symptom of ovarian cancer. Maybe your are noticing that you feel a little swollen or that your clothing is getting tight. If these symptoms develop fairly quickly and cannot be explained by a recent change in your level of physical activity or diet, you should be seeing a doctor.
Complaints of persistent and unexplained incidences of gas, nausea, heartburn or other digestive issues are very common in women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and warrant a trip to your MD.
An abrupt loss of appetite should always be cause for concern, particularly where it is very out of character for the person. Someone who has a healthy appetite and suddenly doesn’t feel like eating, should consult with a physician. Ovarian cancer is known to affect metabolism, which impacts appetite.
A FEELING OF FULLNESS
This symptom relates somewhat to the appetite loss mentioned above. As untreated ovarian cancer develops, a cancerous tumor can grow in the area of the stomach or intestines. This can cause early satiety, a condition that causes someone to feel fuller than they ordinarily would after eating only a small amount of food. This symptom is particularly prevalent in later stages of ovarian cancer.
UNEXPLAINED VAGINAL BLEEDING
Many women are not aware that this can be a very early warning sign of ovarian cancer but the fact is that almost 1 in 4 women who are diagnosed with it experience this! It can present as anything from spotting to heavy irregular bleeding that occurs independent of the woman’s normal menstrual cycle. Other symptoms that sometimes accompany this type of bleeding include things like changes in skin color in the vaginal area, a thick or abnormal discharge, or blisters or other lesions in this area of the body. Any vaginal abnormalities such as this should be cause for concern.
ABRUPT WEIGHT LOSS
It is very common in the early stages of ovarian cancer to experience a sudden, unexpected loss of weight. If you have lost more than ten pounds without any explanation – and in a relatively short period of time – you should be seeing your doctor. Only he or she can check you out and determine if this is a sign of ovarian cancer.
CHANGES IN BOWEL HABITS
Digestive system disruption is a very common symptom of ovarian cancer, which is caused when a tumor begins to swell and impacts the organs around it. This can put pressure on the organs of the digestive system and cause problems such as constipation or – conversely – diarrhea.
UNEXPLAINED LOWER BACK PAIN
If you experience persistent pain in your lower back – pain that many women have equated with feeling like the pain of early labor – you should see a physician. This is a very common sign of ovarian cancer.
If you are dealing with any of these troublesome symptoms, you should get an appointment to be evaluated by your health care provider. A primary care provider or a gynecologist can help you. Only he or she can order the tests to determine if you have ovarian cancer. The sooner that you are seen and diagnosed, the better the odds for a recovery and return to your regular life. Don’t ignore these signs!