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Ovarian Cancer: Don't Miss These Signs

By Expert HERWriter
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Ovarian cancer is an elusive one because the signs and symptoms mimic other common complaints. Women often blow them off or chalk them up to everyday life before seeing a doctor. On the flip-side, health care practitioners might also view the vague complaints as dietary or stress-related instead of getting a work-up.

There is no easy diagnosis for ovarian cancer. Breast cancer usually comes with a lump, change in skin, inverted nipples or discharge. Endometrial cancer usually comes with post-menopausal bleeding/spotting or discharge. Ovarian cancer moves much more stealthily than that.

Here are some things to watch out for:

1) Chronic bloating that won’t go away no matter what you do (It doesn’t generally come and go).
2) Abdominal swelling in the lower pelvic area. Makes it hard to button your pants.
3) Feeling full quickly when eating.
4) Urinary urgency – you have to go NOW!
5) Pelvic pain.
6) Vague back pain not from sprain/strain, overuse or trauma.

Here are some risk factors for ovarian cancer:

1) Starting your period before 12 years old. This causes more ovulations.
2) Never having been pregnant allows you to cycle and ovulate more.
3) Going into menopause later means you have more cycles.
4) Obesity.
5) Having certain mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Please keep in mind that the symptoms are vague. You may have urinary urgency but yours could be due to the vaginal births you had, not ovarian cancer. You may experience chronic bloating but you also eat cheese every day and are intolerant to it. Is your low back pain from your desk job or three-inch heels, or maybe from gardening all Saturday?

After examining these concerns with no relief from treatments, please talk with your health care practitioner about a pelvic ultrasound and possibly some blood-work. Ovarian cancer is often caught in the late stage and survival isn’t that promising. If you recognize yourself in this article, please examine the possibilities and talk with your doctor.

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HERWriter Guide

Dear Anon

Thanks so much for your question.

To answer it - yes, ovarian cancer is known for presenting itself very suddenly with no warning signs.
This isn't said to scare you at all, it's just one of the unfortunate facts of the disease. From our Encyclopedia, here's a little more about ovarian cancer:

The causes of ovarian cancer are not known. However, research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.

Risk Factors
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

Risk factors include:

◦Family history of ovarian cancer, especially in mother, sister, or daughter
◦Age: 50 or older
◦Menstrual history—first period before age 12, no childbirth or first childbirth after age 30, and late menopause
◦Personal history of breast cancer or colon cancer
◦Certain gene mutations, including BRCA1, BRCA2

Use of birth control pills for more than five years appears to decrease risk.

Ovarian cancer generally doesn't cause symptoms until the later stages.

Symptoms include:

◦Abdominal discomfort and/or pain
◦Gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, or cramps
◦Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or frequent urination
◦Loss of appetite
◦Feeling of fullness even after only a light meal
◦Unexplained weight gain or loss
◦Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
◦Hair growth, voice deepening, acne, loss of menstrual periods in some rare stromal tumors

These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious health conditions. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical examination.

Tests may include:

Pelvic Exam
Your doctor will use her gloved finger to check your uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum. She will check for lumps or a change in size or shape.

Imaging Tests
Tests that create pictures of the ovaries and surrounding tissues that will show if there is a tumor include:

◦Ultrasound—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
◦CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
◦MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body
◦Lower GI series or barium enema—injection of fluid into the rectum that makes your colon show up on an x-ray so the doctor can see abnormal spots
◦CA-125 assay—a blood test to measure the level of CA-125, a substance in the blood that may be elevated if ovarian cancer is present."

Anon, please don't worry about anything yet (although that is far too easy for me to say, I know).
It could be anything, from something very mild to something that needs further investigation.

Will you let us know how your ultrasound went?

July 27, 2009 - 9:13am
EmpowHER Guest

Can ovarian cancer present itself suddenly? I had a clear ultrasound and PAP last November but am experiencing cervical inflammation and pain in my left back and abdomen now in July. The pain follows sexual activity. I will have another ultrasound in two days and am pretty worried. I not not have consistent bloating.

July 27, 2009 - 7:53am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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