Why is it so important to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer? Because there is no definitive test and ovarian is one of the most misdiagnosed cancers. Furthermore, with ovarian cancer, the chance of survival changes dramatically as the disease progresses. Here’s why-
To really understand this scenario, it’s necessary that you recall that high school anatomy class that caused the boys to giggle and the girls to blush: reproductive biology. We think of a woman’s pelvic region as sex organs: ovaries, uterus, vagina and their system of connecting tubes and arteries. But, tucked into the same space are the bladder, rectum, bowel and a pouch between the bladder and the uterus called the peritoneum.
Now, imagine that – for some unknown reason – one of your ovaries starts growing a tiny little tumor composed of microscopic buds of cancer. You may feel something . . . heavier menstrual bleeding, perhaps discomfort during sex . . . but the changes are subtle and easy to ignore, or perhaps there’s no physical change yet. Then, as the tumor gorges on the generous blood supply available to the reproductive organs, the growth becomes larger and larger and starts encroaching on its neighbors: the bowels, bladder, even the stomach. As pressure is applied to these organs, physical changes start creating problems with digestion. But the problem is not digestive at all.
About 75% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in late stage. The astounding thing is that these are not women who ignored their bodies; they are generally women who pursued the wrong problem. How often, when you have a digestive problem, do you consult your gynecologist? When you experience unusually urgent or frequent urination, do you think it might be caused by your bladder being crowded out by a mass growing in the pelvic area? When you have changes in bowel habits, do you imagine that a tumor may be inhibiting the colon from moving normally? Or, for unusual bloating or pain of the abdomen, do you even consider that it’s gynecologic? For too many women and their primary care physicians, the answer was no.