According to reports, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths in women globally. Over 19,000 women across the world are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. When diagnosed at an early stage, ovarian cancer has a higher survival rate.
Many often tend not to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, mainly because the symptoms either go undetected or coincide with very “common” symptoms that several women experience throughout their reproductive cycle.
Surprisingly, most women brush aside the early signs of ovarian cancer, thinking it’s normal or “nothing to be worried about.” This article will explore some common symptoms of ovarian cancer that you should never ignore.
In this Article
- 1 Why is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed Late?
- 2 What are the Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer you Shouldn’t Take for Granted?
- 3 What is the best way to Diagnose Ovarian Cancer?
- 4 FAQs
- 5 Conclusion
Why is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed Late?
Would you be surprised if we said that despite being one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women, ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it reaches the advanced stages?
During the early stages of infestation and development, ovarian malignancy doesn’t impose any notable symptoms.
Even the symptoms that appear during the early stages are so common that most women mistake them for other chronic conditions like urinary tract infections, irritable bowel syndrome, or other reproductive complications.
In most cases, ovarian cancer can go undetected until it starts metastasizing to other parts of the body, progressing toward the advanced stages. Sometimes, even simple symptoms like persistent or recurring bloating could be a sign of ovarian cancer that you are brushing to the curbside.
What are the Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer you Shouldn’t Take for Granted?
Most of the symptoms of cancer in women, especially ovarian cancer, are silent symptoms. They don’t come to the foreground until the condition progresses to the advanced stages.
If you are experiencing any kinds of symptoms that are persistent or recurring, you mustn’t take them for granted. Instead, pay close attention to the symptoms and consult your healthcare provider.
Following are some of the early and often hidden signs of ovarian cancer you shouldn’t miss out on:
As surprising as it sounds, bloating is one of the most underrated yet telling signs of ovarian cancer in women. If you are experiencing symptoms of persistent bloating throughout the day, it isn’t common and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Bloating is natural when you have eaten something that could trigger the phenomenon. Bloating is also common right around the start of your menstrual cycle. However, experiencing bloating round the clock, day after day, could be a sign of ovarian cancer that you are potentially brushing to the side.
Around 72% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer report that they have experienced uncontrolled bloating before their diagnosis. Many describe it as an uncomfortable tightness around their abdomen, while some explain that it made it difficult for them to fit into their usual-sized clothes.
Besides the food being a trigger, bloating also happens when there is an excess build-up of fluid inside the abdomen. It could be due to poor abdominal blood supply or any obstructions in the body. Experiencing persistent bloating could be fatal for ovarian cancer patients since it enhances the risks of metastasis of the cancer cells.
2. Prolonged or Persistent Pain in the Abdomen or Pelvic Region
Abdominal or Pelvic pain is a concern most of us complain about from time to time. If you are experiencing pain chronically for 3-4 weeks at a stretch, that could be one of the hidden ovarian cancer symptoms that you need to take seriously.
If the pain starts out of the blue and there are no accessory triggers that you could attribute to the pain, it could be a sign of an underlying problem.
You can test out two theories to rule out potential complications:
- If you alleviate your stress and the pain subsides, the pain is likely due to stress.
- If you switch things up in your diet and the pain alleviates, the pain is likely due to some gastrointestinal complications.
Since pelvic or abdominal pain could be due to a barrage of underlying reasons, not many individuals attribute these symptoms to ovarian cancer. Getting a comprehensive diagnosis with proper testing is thus quintessential if you wish to get the answers you have been looking for all this while.
Pain is often a consequence. Instead of brushing the symptom aside, thinking it’s probably due to age or due to, your periods, or other trivial issues, it is essential that you pay close attention to the symptom and get it checked before things go out of hand.
3. Shift in Bathroom Habits
Bathroom habits include a lot of things. It could be the frequency of urination, constipation, diarrhea, the nature of your bowel movements, etc.
One of the reasons why most women tend to miss out on early signs of ovarian cancer is because the symptoms often coincide with other conditions, for example, urinary tract infection.
Most women who experience changes in their bladder function or experience pain or burning sensation while urinating often regard the symptoms as an active infection. What we fail to realize is the fact that urinary problems or symptoms could be an early sign of reproductive complications, including ovarian and cervical cancer symptoms.
Some of the common urinary symptoms that you should pay close attention to are:
- Pressure in the bladder
- Frequent urination
- Feeling a sudden urge to urinate
If these symptoms are persistent or get progressively worse, it is crucial that you talk to a doctor about them instead of brushing things to the side.
4. Sudden Changes in Appetite
Like most cancers, even ovarian cancer causes a sudden loss of appetite in the patients. When talking about appetite changes, it isn’t just experiencing a sudden aversion to food. Several women who have ovarian cancer report that they feel full after eating a small amount of food.
Besides that, experiencing indigestion, nausea, or an urge to vomit could be a sign of ovarian cancer as well. Sudden changes in one’s appetite also contribute to rapid and unexpected weight loss, which is another common symptom that you should keep an eye out on.
If you are experiencing a sudden shift in your eating habits, monitor your meals and see how much you eat and how much you can keep down. Any drastic changes to one’s appetite should be reported without fail to the doctor.
5. Drastic Changes to One’s Menstrual Cycle
Pay close attention to the symptoms if you are:
- Missing your period
- Bleeding heavier than normal
- Experiencing spotting even when you aren’t on your period
- Experiencing vaginal discharge that’s unusual than normal
If you notice these symptoms become more and more normal every month with your menstrual cycle, it could be an early sign of ovarian cancer that you shouldn’t brush to the side.
Even studies indicate that missing a period or having irregular periods is one of the leading risk factors for ovarian cancer in women.
There is a fraction of post-menopausal women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. If you have hit menopause but are suddenly witnessing bleeding or reddish discharge from your vagina, it could be a sign of women cancer (uterine, ovarian, or cervical).
Consulting a gynecologist, in that case, is not a question but a necessity to understand what’s going on and what needs to be done to get a comprehensive diagnosis.
What is the best way to Diagnose Ovarian Cancer?
Now that you have a better idea about the potential symptoms of ovarian cancer that you should look out for, it is time we discuss the mode of diagnosis as well.
The first question is, “When should I see a doctor?” The answer to that is pretty simple. If you are experiencing persistent symptoms, unattributed to any other condition and interfering with your quality of life, that demands a medical intervention.
The second question is, “How do I know if I have ovarian cancer?” The answer to that starts with your initial doctor’s consultation. Once you share your symptoms and your complaints with your gynecologist, they will prescribe a series of blood tests and imaging tests to determine what’s wrong.
Some of the tests done to confirm a diagnosis of ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic examination
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- CA-125 blood test
- CT scan
Getting an early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is life-saving and can ensure better chances of survival. If you are at risk of developing ovarian cancer or experiencing symptoms out of the blue that could be alarming, it is ideal to consult a gynecologist for peace of mind.
What are the risk factors of ovarian cancer?
You might have a heightened risk of ovarian cancer if you have a family history of cancer, obesity, haven’t been pregnant before, have been on hormone or fertility drugs, etc.
Is experiencing pain during sex a sign of ovarian cancer?
Painful sexual intercourse is one of the least alarming signs of ovarian cancer. If you are experiencing this symptom persistently, it could be due to vaginal dryness, vaginismus, endometriosis, etc. as well. Consult your gynecologist for further evaluation.
Is experiencing back pain a sign of ovarian cancer?
Back pain is often an underrated but potential sign of ovarian cancer. If you experience the pain out of the blue and it doesn’t go away after a few weeks, it is ideal to see a doctor.
Ovarian cancer doesn’t come with noticeable symptoms all the time, which means that you might not realize you have this condition until it has already progressed to the advanced stages. Hence, paying attention to even the slightest alarming symptoms is essential. If you are hit with a symptom out of the blue that isn’t due to any other underlying condition, you must consult a gynecologist when things are in a treatable stage.