Ovarian Cancer Myths
Q. Is it true that there are no symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer?
A. Many in the medical community and a number of medical texts still hold the incorrect belief that there are no symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer. While the symptoms for early stage ovarian cancer tend to be nonspecific and can mimic nongynecologic conditions, a large national study shows that an overwhelming majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer did have symptoms. The most common symptoms reported include: abdominal bloating or discomfort; increased abdominal size or clothes that fit tighter around your waist; increased or urgent need to urinate and pelvic pain. Additional signs and symptoms are: Persistent gas, indigestion or nausea; unexplained changes in bowel habits; unexplained weight loss or gain; loss of appetite; feeling full quickly during or after a meal and pain during sexual intercourse; a persistent lack of energy and low back pain of shortness of breath.
Q. Is it true that a woman who has had her ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer?
A. Technically, women who have their ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer. There is a rare type of cancer called primary peritoneal carcinoma - a close relative to ovarian cancer that can develop without the ovaries. Primary peritoneal carcinoma is cancer of the abdominal lining. It looks the same as epithelial ovarian cancer under a microscope, it has the same symptoms, it spreads in a similar pattern and it is treated in the same way as ovarian cancer.
Q. Does promoting ovarian cancer information increase anxiety among women?
A. A recent scientific study in Britain dispelled this idea; promoting cancer information really reassures the public. (British Medical Journal 1999) It is important to empower women with the knowledge to take charge of their health and be good advocates.
Source: A. Goff, M.D., Lynn Mandel, Ph.D., Howard G. Muntz, M.D., Cindy H. Melancon, R.N., M.N. 2000. Ovarian carcinoma diagnosis. Cancer 89, No. 10: 1097-0142
Prevention, Risk and Hereditary Factors
Q. Is there any way to prevent ovarian cancer?