If you’ve been feeling bloated for the last few days and decide to Google the possible causes, be prepared for the worst-case scenario: cancer.
Most likely, it’s just something you ate causing the bloating, but in certain situations, a common symptom like bloating can actually be a sign of a serious health condition.
In fact, one such condition is ovarian cancer. It’s called the silent killer for a reason.
According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, “symptoms for ovarian cancer tend to be nonspecific and can mimic other conditions.”
Women are often diagnosed in the third stage of the disease, according to Dr. Sheryl Ross, also known as Dr. Sherry.
“It’s a highly lethal cancer since the symptoms women experience are slow to occur making it difficult to diagnosis in its early stages,” Ross said.
However, women with ovarian cancer do in fact have symptoms, even in the early stages. Experts share common symptoms to watch out for and keep an eye on, if they aren’t going away.
1) Unexplained vaginal bleeding
According to Ross, this is one of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Any bleeding that occurs between periods could be caused by several other health issues as well, according to MedlinePlus. For example, it could be caused by medication, stress, sexually transmitted diseases or fibroids.
2) Pelvic or abdominal pain and cramping
This is another symptom of ovarian cancer that can also mimic other health conditions, such as ovarian cysts. According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer share several similar symptoms, including bloating and back pain.
3) Abnormal exam results
Early signs of ovarian cancer can sometimes be detected through pelvic exams and ultrasounds. If an abnormal mass or cyst is found, this can be cause for concern, Ross said. Pelvic or abdominal exams may also detect ascites ( fluid in the abdominal cavity) when a woman is suffering from ovarian cancer.
4) Abdominal bloating
According to Ross, this is just another vague, nonspecific symptom that is also associated with gastrointestinal issues, often leading to a delayed cancer diagnosis.
5) Frequent urination
This symptom might be mistaken for a common change in a woman’s body as she ages, but it can also be a symptom of ovarian cancer. If this is a new symptom that lasts more than two weeks during the month, along with at least one other new symptom, it is imperative to make an appointment with your doctor to get a pelvic ultrasound, according to Dr. Cheryl Saenz, a gynecologic oncologist at UC San Diego Health.
6) Early satiety
In other words, it’s not a good sign if you’re feeling full all the time, to the point of discomfort, even after eating very little or nothing at all. Feeling full early on can be found even in women with Stage I ovarian cancer, Saenz said.
7) Irregular bowel movements.
If your bowel habits have changed, this could be a possible sign of cancer, according to Dr. Sameer Kumar of icliniq, a telehealth portal. Bowel changes may include a new onset of diarrhea or constipation.
Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Frequently asked questions about ovarian cancer. Does ovarian cancer have symptoms in its early stages? Web. Sept. 9, 2015.
Ross, Sherry. Email interview. Sept. 1, 2015.
Saenz, Cheryl. Email interview. Sept. 2, 2015.
Kumar, Sameer. Email interview. Sept. 1, 2015.
MedlinePlus. Vaginal bleeding between periods. Web. Sept. 11, 2015. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003156.htm
Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Pelvic pain and ovarian cysts: Do they mean cancer? Web. Sept. 11, 2015.
Reviewed September 15, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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