The Silent Killer is Making Some Noise
Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the "silent killer"because it was thought that there were no symptoms until the disease was well into its advanced stages. However, studies have shown that the majority of women do in fact have symptoms, but just not what you would expect.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association* found that many everyday symptoms, which are often dismissed or attributed to other conditions, are present before ovarian cancer is diagnosed months down the road.
The most commonly reported symptoms were back pain, fatigue, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and urinary symptoms.
So what's the message? The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition wants women to "Break the Silence" And in observance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month they have developed a downloadable conversation starter so that women can learn the right questions to ask their healthcare providers. They suggest that if you are experiencing two or three of the following unexplained target symptoms and they persist for two weeks or more you should see your doctor and ask for a rectovaginal exam, a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pressure or pain in your abdomen or pelvis
- Back pain
- Swelling, bloating, gastrointestinal upset
- Frequent urination in the absence of an infection
Other symptoms reported by women with ovarian cancer include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Urinary urgency
- Menstrual irregularities
- Bleeding after menopause
- Pain during intercourse
- Bleeding with intercourse
*Frequency of Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer in Women Presenting to Primary Care Clinics
Barbara A. Goff; Lynn S. Mandel; Cindy H. Melancon; Howard G. Muntz;
JAMA. 2004; 291:2705-2712
Photo credit: National Ovarian Cancer Coalition