Thursday, October 8, 2009

Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer has the worst prognosis of all gynecological cancers and it accounts for 4% of all cancers in women. Ovarian cancer has been called the "silent killer" because it was thought to have few symptoms and it is difficult to diagnosis in early stages. There are no good screening tests for ovarian cancer, including Ca125. The Ca125 test is not recommended as a screen for ovarian cancer and is mainly used to look for recurrence in previously treated cancer.

Several recent studies have shown that we were wrong to think ovarian cancer is "silent". There are seven symptoms that have been found to be associated with ovarian cancer and they are often overlooked by physicians and patients. Since only 30% of women are diagnosed in early stage of cancer, these symptoms, especially in combination, can be a clue.
  • Abdominal distension (an increase in abdominal girth)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Loss of appetite
  • Postmenopausal bleeding
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Rectal bleeding
The symptoms can be caused by a number of things and are not specific to ovarian cancer. But any woman with a combination of these symptoms should at least be considered for further work-up and diagnosis.


Kellie said...

Thanks for writing about this. September was Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. I lost a relative and a good friend from ovarian. One was diagnosed in stage lll the other in stage lV. both times physicians thought it was GI problems until the sonograms confirmed it with the CA125.
Here is a link for National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

Johns Hopkins Ovarian Cancer participated in a marathon in 2006 to raise money for more research for better treatment.

robyn said...

Good information that needs to be HEARD! I am a Stage III O cancer survivor (20 years ago now- Yay for me!) At least one year before my "actual" diagnosis, I had extreme shooting pains in the approximate area of my ovaries when I would sit down, just the action of my lower body hitting the chair or sofa was excruciating, but only for moments at a time. A call to the ER Physician(male) got the response "oh you're just having menstrual pains/PMS/hypochondria- (insert any malady blamed on monthly menses comment from the men who have no clue, here) no need to come in" I didn't, and one year later I began hemorrhaging vaginally, within 24 hrs was diagnosed, within 72 hours had my partial hysterectomy, within one week had the rest of my female organs, along with my gall bladder and part of my liver, removed due to metastasis of the Stage 3 cells- refused chemo but completed 6 weeks of daily radiation- and thankfully, lived to tell the tale.
Ladies, we KNOW our bodies. If something feels wrong "down there", don't take any plausible response from someone just because he's an MD, UNLESS you are at least tested and feel the diagnosis was correct. There ARE symptoms, I had them but ignored them. Irregular periods, flow variabilities, pain, bloating, are just a few. My tumours (The big ones) were grapefruit size and firmly attached to my right ovary- EXACTLY where I had shooting pains one year earlier.
Don't be paranoid, but don't think "oh I 'm not high risk". I had no family history of ANY cancers, no other known potential carcinogens history- who woulda thunk I'd have such a potentially fatal form of cancer?
I hope more information becomes available to women to help them know what to look for- and I sure hope some physicians have a listen as well. It's not ALWAYS in a textbook- YET. My case was written up in medical journals across the US, I hope they were read by doctors who could see beyond the "number" I was identified with, and realize there was (is) a real woman behind the number, who had dreams of a long life and a few children. Part of that dream may had been saved, had that ER physician said "why don't you come in, or see your doctor Monday, and we'll see what's causing the pain" I am thankful for my life, but forever saddened by the loss of ability to carry/bear children at the age of 27.

Toni Brayer MD said...

Kellie: Thanks for the info

Robyn: Yours is such an important comment and so important for women to read. The advise you gave has meaning because of what you went through. Any symptom that recurs does need to be evaluated and not just brushed off. Congratulations on your 20 years and many more.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog

Cosmetic Surgery said...

Oh my God. Its really a silent killer. Well i would like to ask you one question that can you tell me the basic symptoms of this disease?

sasha said...

very informative blog about Ovarian Cancer thanks for sharing this blog
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Symptoms of ovarian cancer are nonspecific and mimic those of many other more common conditions, including digestive and bladder disorders. A woman with ovarian cancer may be diagnosed with another condition before finally learning she has cancer. Common misdiagnoses include irritable bowel syndrome, stress and depression.

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