The fact that there's no screening method available for ovarian cancer makes it even harder to diagnose, especially for women who do not have symptoms. That's why it's extremely important to know the early signs of the deadly disease for a better prognosis.
Not everyone is aware that ovarian cancer, which affects a woman's reproductive system, is a silent killer. More than 70% of women who are diagnosed with it are already in the advanced stages of cancer, unfortunately. The fact that there's no screening method available for ovarian cancer makes it even harder to diagnose, especially for women who do not have symptoms. That's why it's extremely important to know the early signs of the deadly disease for a better prognosis. "Women tend to ignore early signs of ovarian cancer or think their symptoms are simply related to aging, weight gain or other less serious problem," explains gynecologic oncologist Amina Ahmed, MD. "That’s what makes ovarian cancer so difficult to detect early when it is most curable."
Mentioned below are 5 early signs of ovarian cancer that should not be ignored if you experience them more than 12 times a month, as per cancer.org.
It's normal to feel bloated after a heavy meal or around the time when your period starts. However, if your notice there is abdominal bloating or swelling for an unusually long period of time, it could be a sign of ovarian cancer. It doesn't matter whether the swelling is mild or severe, if you notice wait feels bigger than usual and clothes them to cling onto your waistline every day, it could be a reason to worry.
When there is constant pressure in the abdomen, pelvis, and lower back, which lasts for one to three weeks, it could be a red flag. While the symptom can be due to a number of conditions, it is important to check if the pain is somewhat new and cannot be attributed to other factors like stress. If it comes and goes when your stress is alleviated, it's likely a GI-related problem. "Unfortunately, it can be really hard to differentiate between symptoms of ovarian cancer and GI- or stress-related problems," says Ahmed. "That’s why so many women see a number of specialists before they are finally diagnosed."
If you notice a change in your period, for example, the flow is not regular or you're bleeding more than usual, it could be a sign of ovarian cancer. Experiencing pain or discomfort while having sexual intercourse could also be a telling sign. While it happens due to many medical conditions, if you experience pain a while after it, or feel that it hurts on one side more than the other, you should see a medical professional.
Frequent need to urinate, constant pressure in the bladder, and a sudden urge to urinate are specific symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. Don't mistake pain while peeing for urinary tract infections. "If these urinary symptoms are new to you and last more than several days, that’s a problem," notes Ahmed. These symptoms could also be caused due to hormonal changes in your body triggered by a tumor.
Loss of appetite is a common symptom of ovarian cancer. The early signs of the disease include feeling full faster than you normally do. If you face difficulty in finishing small meals and it's a new symptom that you're experiencing, contact your doctor. If cancer has progressed you may feel more tired than usual as cancer cells take up a lot of energy as they start fighting healthy cells.
It's advisable to see a doctor if the symptoms persist.
While there is no definite way of avoiding ovarian cancer, your risk may be lower if you have used birth control medication for around five years or more, or have undergone medical procedures like having your tubes tied together, your ovaries removed, or having your cervix and uterus taken out surgically. As for women who have previously given birth and have also breastfed, chances are they wouldn't develop ovarian cancer. The risk of developing cancer in the ovaries increases if either side of your family has a history of breast, uterine, colorectal, and ovarian cancer, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Representative cover image source: Getty | Photo by vitapix (L) Getty | Photo by SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI (R)