Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because it has many symptoms, like breast and skin cancer. But this does not mean that women do not experience symptoms.
Often these symptoms are not easy to detect. “They’re very discrete, easy to ignore, and easily associated with other things like changing your diet,” said Shannon Westin, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department. Gynecologic and Reproductive Oncology at Anderson Cancer Center.
Basically, “they’re easy to blow,” says Westin. Unfortunately, ignoring the symptoms of ovarian cancer can lead to the development of the disease, which makes it difficult to treat when it is detected. “But that often leads to a delay in diagnosis.”
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According to the ACS, 22,440 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year.
This can be a real problem – according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women, and more than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Again, these symptoms are very vague, but if you experience one or more of these symptoms at once, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.
- Frequent abdominal and pelvic pain.
This is generally a sign that ovarian cancer is spreading, says Mitchell Hoffman, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “When we operate on patients with ovarian cancer, most of them have metastases (meaning they’ve spread to other parts of the body),” she says.
“There can be a lot of tumors in the pelvis, the upper abdomen, the bowel, even the diaphragm,” he said. Ovarian cancer can cause fluid to build up in the abdomen, called ascites, and all of these factors can cause pain, Hoffman said.
- Nausea or inability to eat normally.
When ovarian cancer spreads, it can affect your bowel function. “Things are revved up, and that’s what causes nausea,” Westin said.
A woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is about 1 in 78.
The same goes for feeling full more quickly than usual or not being able to eat as much as you normally would.
If so, your stomach may feel smaller than usual due to the growing tumor, or it may retain fluid and make you feel full.
- You’re always nauseous and constipated.
Ovarian cancer can cause bowel dysfunction to cause repeated bloating, Hoffman says. “For [your gut] to function properly, the gut has to have muscle activity to push things through,” he says. But when ovarian cancer starts to spread, when tumors form on the outer surface of the intestine, it disrupts its function, Hoffman said.
Bloating is especially suspicious if you haven’t changed your diet or exercise, says Westin.
- You pee a lot.
It could be ovarian cancer, Hoffman said. “There’s a lot of room in the pelvis,” he points out. “When a woman starts having a tumor there, it pushes against the bladder and reduces the capacity of the bladder,” he said. This in turn causes the bladder to fill more quickly and require frequent emptying.
- Your periods are really irregular.
That’s a big one, Hoffman said. If you have a tumor on your ovary, it can disrupt its normal function and eventually disrupt your cycle, so if you notice a big change in your cycle (more frequent periods, no periods, no periods), she explains. all), it is important to see your doctor for a variety of reasons.
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Another possibility: Some ovarian tumors themselves produce estrogen and can disrupt your cycle by mimicking menstrual bleeding, Westin says. It can also happen after you go through menopause and stop having periods, which is another red flag.
- Pain during sex.
There are a few things at play here. First, you may have an ovarian tumor that’s pushing into your vagina and having penetrative intercourse, Hoffman says.
Another thing is that the hormonal changes your body can experience due to ovarian cancer can cause your vagina to dry out, which can make sex uncomfortable and painful, says Westin.
- You have crazy heartburn.
Again, if ovarian cancer something other than cancer, but it’s important to get it checked out anyway. So, call your doctor and let them know about your concerns. “Schedule a visit and ask them, ‘Could this be my ovaries?'” says Deborah Lindner, chief medical officer at Bright Pink—it could save your life.