Staging ovarian cancer is important because the stage at diagnosis is the most powerful predictor of survival, and treatments are often determined based on stage. Staging indicates how much the cancer has spread and which other organs are involved.
Ovarian Cancer Stages:
• Stage I: The cancer has not spread beyond the ovaries. This is the optimum diagnosis, when the survival rate is about 90%. Unfortunately, only 15% of women are diagnosed this early.
• Stage II: The cancer has spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, bladder, sigmoid colon, rectum or other pelvic organs. Metastasis to these organs usually produces symptoms associated with gastrointestinal conditions. Detection at this stage is still optimistic.
• Stage III: The cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and/or lymph nodes. Many women at this stage experience considerable discomfort. Many, after ineffective treatments, finally pursue specialists who discover a more serious condition: gynecologic cancer.
• Stage IV: The disease has spread to distant organs such as the liver or the lungs. The disease has now progressed to the point that too many organs may be involved and surgical options are limited.
Less than a fourth of women with Stage III or IV ovarian cancer will live five years after diagnosis.
With no early screening test, women must know what is normal for them and seek answers when they’re not. Seldom do women with gastrointestinal problems think of seeing a gynecologist, but the answer may be gynecologic disease.
Know the symptoms of gynecologic cancer. If you experience unusual gastrointestinal problems for more than several weeks, this may be due to fluids or growths in the abdominal cavity. Fluids caused by the disease may cause abnormal bloating. Tumors can press on the bladder, stomach, intestines or colon causing intestinal blockages or urgent or frequent urination. Many women also experience unexpected weight gain or loss, fatigue, pain with intercourse or unusual bleeding.
Know your family history. If there’s a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, you may benefit from genetic testing. Other indicators may be colon cancer incidences.
Most likely, a growth in the pelvic area is benign; most are. But for 25,000 women in this country this year, it will be ovarian cancer. For over 75,000, it will be some form of gynecologic cancer.
Know your body. Get answers. Take charge of your health.