Potential Signs of Ovarian Cancer You Should Never Ignore
Published on 05/05/20
One in 78 women gets ovarian cancer. The good news is that 90% of women have a five-year survival rate when diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages. The bad news is that 80% of cases don’t get detected until they’re advanced. Unfortunately, this significantly impacts survival rates, which is why so many refer to ovarian cancer as the “silent killer.”
In honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, our team at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in Manhattan, New York, wants to shine a light on this serious disease. We know firsthand that knowledge is power: The more you understand about ovarian cancer, the easier it is to recognize the signs of this condition and get treated early.
What is ovarian cancer?
This gynecological cancer affects the almond-sized ovaries attached to your uterus. These small organs produce eggs during your reproductive years, along with the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
There are different forms of ovarian cancer, depending on where it begins, including:
- Epithelial tumors: originating in the thin, outer tissue covering your ovaries
- Stromal tumors: starting in the tissue that contains hormone-producing cells
- Germ cell tumors: beginning in the tissue with cells that make your eggs
What makes ovarian cancer so serious is that it often advances without detection until it spreads within your abdomen and pelvis. At this point, it becomes harder to treat.
Understanding your risks of ovarian cancer
Any woman can develop ovarian cancer, but certain factors increase your chances. For example, most women with ovarian cancer are between 50-60 years of age. There are also some ovarian cancers caused by inherited genetic mutations, including BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes known to increase your risk of breast cancer.
Additional factors that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer include:
- Having a family history of the condition
- Using estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for long periods and in large doses
- Beginning or ending menstruation at an early age
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent ovarian cancer, but we can discuss your personal and medical history to identify your individual risk. We can also recommend screenings to help with early detection.
Recognizing ovarian cancer symptoms
Ovarian cancer is different for every woman. To protect yourself, it’s essential to know your body, pay close attention to any changes you notice, and talk to us when you know something just isn’t right.
Signs that could indicate ovarian cancer include:
- Abdominal bloating, swelling, or pain
- Trouble eating or getting full quickly
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- An urgent and persistent need to urinate
- Discomfort in your pelvis or back
- Persistent gastrointestinal issues, like nausea, indigestion, and gas
- Bowel changes, like constipation and diarrhea
- New and abnormal menstrual bleeding, especially after menopause
- Painful intercourse
- Unusual fatigue
- Shortness of breath
If you notice these symptoms for longer than a week or two, you should contact us so we can help protect your health. And, remember, these changes don’t guarantee that you have ovarian cancer. However, taking the right steps when you see something suspicious can help save your life.