What are the Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. The female reproductive system contains two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat. Early-stage ovarian cancer, in which the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated successfully.
Surgery and chemotherapy are generally used to treat ovarian cancer.
Most ovarian cancers start in the epithelium, or outer lining, of the ovary.
In the early stages, there may be few or no symptoms.
Symptoms may resemble those of other conditions, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or a temporary bladder problem.
The main difference between ovarian cancer and other possible disorders is the persistence and gradual worsening of symptoms.
Early symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- pain in the pelvis, the lower abdomen, or the lower part of the body
- back pain
- indigestion or heartburn
- feeling full rapidly when eating
- more frequent and urgent urination
- pain during sexual intercourse
- changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
As the cancer progresses, there may also be:
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
If an individual experiences bloating, pressure, or pain in the abdomen or pelvis that lasts for more than a few weeks they should see a doctor immediately.
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
It’s much easier to treat ovarian cancer when your doctor diagnoses it in the early stages. However, it’s not easy to detect.
Your ovaries are situated deep within the abdominal cavity, so you’re unlikely to feel a tumor. There’s no routine diagnostic screening available for ovarian cancer. That’s why it’s so important for you to report unusual or persistent symptoms to your doctor.
If your doctor is concerned that you have ovarian cancer, they’ll likely recommend a pelvic exam. Performing a pelvic exam can help your doctor discover irregularities, but small ovarian tumors are very difficult to feel.
As the tumor grows, it presses against the bladder and rectum. Your doctor may be able to detect irregularities during a rectovaginal pelvic examination.
Can ovarian cancer be prevented?
There are no proven ways to totally eliminate your risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Factors that have been shown to lower your risk of developing ovarian cancer include:
- taking oral birth control pills
- surgical procedures on your reproductive organs (like a tubal ligation or hysterectomy)
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your risk of ovarian cancer. Your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor to discuss testing for certain gene mutations that increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Also read – Ovarian cyst – Symptoms, types and causes