September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Do You Know The Symptoms?

 

It is expected that over 21,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 15,000 women will lose their lives from the disease this year alone in the United States. Women usually do not talk about gynecological issues, but we need to stop the silence. Ask questions. Get informed. Talk to you doctor.

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly of all the gynecologic cancers. If detected early and treated properly, survival rates increase to over 90 percent.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle and hard to diagnose; however, there are four main symptoms associated with the disease: These include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or frequency

Other symptoms can include nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and backaches

Diagnosis

Your doctor may order the following tests:

  • Physical examination — Your doctor will palpate your abdomen to look for discomfort and tenderness or abnormal fluid
  • Pelvic examination
  • Blood Test — Your doctor may order a CA-125 blood test. This test measures CA-125 in the blood. CA-125 is found on the surface on ovarian cancer cells and also normal tissue. A high CA-125 level may indicate ovarian cancer or other conditions.
  • Ultrasound
  • Biopsy

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

There are four stages of ovarian cancer. Your doctor will determine your stage of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is treated differently depending on which stage you are diagnosed with.

The four primary stages are:

Stage I: The cancer is completely contained within the ovary or ovaries

Stage II: The cancer is in one or both of the ovaries and has spread to additional organs located in the pelvis such as the bladder, colon, rectum or uterus.

Stage III: The cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to one or both of the following: the lining of the abdomen or the lymph nodes.

Stage IV: The most advanced stage of cancer. The cancer has spread from one or both ovaries to additional organs such as the liver or lungs, or there may be cancer cells in the fluid surrounding the lungs.

Recurrent: The cancer has returned after successful treatment.

The four stages of cancer are also divided into sub-groups

Risk Factors

Ovarian cancer does not discriminate. It can strike a woman of any race or at any age. We do know that women with certain risk factors may have a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of cancer
  • Women over the age of 55
  • Women who were never pregnant
  • Women on menopausal hormone replacement therapy

Read more about the role of heredity and genetic testing from the National Cancer Institute.

For more information about ovarian cancer, visit www.ovariancancerawareness.org.

ps. I Love my Aunt Marianne ♥

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  • RavynG

    I have always heard the story how my mother, who could not get prenant for 9+ years of trying to, had 1 and 3/4 of the other ovary removed for “premalignant ovarian cysts” and then got pregnant with me just 6 weeks after the surgery with only 1/4 of 1 ovary (and my sister 4 1/2 yrs later). Is this possible? And what is “premalignant ovarian cysts”? Does this factor as an inherited risk factor for me?

  • Ivonne

    I am dealing with a bit of an issue. I have all of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. There is a large number of my family members, aunts who have all passed away from ovarian cancer and cousins who have survived and caught it in time. However, all the testing that the doctor did was negative.
    My gyne was not able to get a biopsy however. It was so painful and he told me that he couldn’t find the right ovary in the internal ultrasound which was extremely painful. He was so rude and told me that I was okay and left the room when I was crying because the internal exam hurt so much.
    I have irregular periods and spotting. I am so horrified. Most of my pain is on the right side and severe back pain. Last month I was bleeding so much I was placed on contraceptive temporarily.
    I must say I shriek at the thought of having to see another gyne. Thanks for hearing me out.

  • Sherrie Oliver

    I have stage 3c Ovarian Cancer, ovaries, omentum and bowel spread. It is indeed a very difficult cancer to diagnose, I ‘just felt’ something was wrong, I had a little bit of abdominal pain but that wasnt unusual as I have a lifetime constipation problem. The only one of the risk factors that applies to me is that I have never been pregnant, although I do believe I had an early miscarriage in my late 20s.

    I would urge every woman who reads this that if they feel that something just isnt right they should be firm with their gynae about testing, dont be fobbed off. Although that’s less likely in the US than in the UK (where I am).

    Fortunately my cancer is ‘arrested’, its not progressing at the moment, but I suffer greatly with fatigue which not everyone can get a handle on.

    Life goes on and I am determined to make the most of it. But ladies….be aware, it really can happen to you.

  • Aunt Marianne

    I love you too! Thanks for publicizing this.

  • Nancy Pardo

    I’m a survivor of Ovarian Cancer. I did want to add another symptom of Ovarian Cancer. My biggest complaint was severe back pain, and therefore, I even went to an Orthopedic doctor. My cancer had spreaad so fast within six months after my yearly routine gyn check-up. I started bleeding in the middle of my menstral cycle which led me back to my Gyn who gave me an internal exam and found that my left ovary was huge. Two weeks later I was operated on and I did have ovarian cancer which was the size of a grapefruit, and thankfully it was fully incapsulated. The oncologist called it a miracle to grow so fast and not spread to other organs. I’ve been cancer free 28 yrs.

  • lAURIE KARLE

    GREAT JOB – KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

  • heather morgan

    Thanks for addressing this important women’s health issue. I lost my godmother this year after a long struggle with ovarian cancer.