Did you know that more than 75% of women who receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis are diagnosed at a much later stage? It’s no wonder ovarian cancer is called a silent killer. Early detection of ovarian cancer is extremely difficult because the signs are very subtle, but it’s not impossible.
Knowing about the most common signs of ovarian cancer will help you be more aware of your body and take swift action to tackle the disease.
Causes of Ovarian Cancer
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Cancer is a disease where some cells in the body grow and divide uncontrollably and spread to surrounding tissue. Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries.
Although a definite cause of ovarian cancer is yet to be determined, there is a multitude of factors that, either individually or together, can result in ovarian cancer.
Here are some of the most common risk factors associated with ovarian cancer:
#1. If you have a family cancer syndrome because of inherited gene mutation.
#2. Being obese or overweight with a BMI of 30.
#3. Continued hormone therapy, including estrogen or progesterone, after menopause.
#4. Having Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.
#5. Having kids later in life and not being able to complete a full-term pregnancy.
#6. Undergoing fertility treatments.
#7. A history of breast cancer.
#8. Excessive smoking, exposure to radiation, and diet also play a part.
8 Signs Of Ovarian Cancer
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Early detection is crucial when dealing with any type of cancer, but more so with ovarian cancer. Most patients diagnosed with this disease are already at the advanced to late stages — too late for proper intervention.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are not only subtle but also resemble many generic signs that most people would chalk up as normal. But if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below for a prolonged time, do not ignore them.
#1. Abdominal Bloating Or Swelling
Most would think of bloating as plain gassiness from over-indulging in food. Bloating goes away without any medical intervention. That’s why many would disregard it.
However, if you’re feeling bloated without having eaten too much and the bloating doesn’t seem to be going away, it’s time to visit your doctor.
#2. Quickly Feeling Full When Eating
Feeling full too quickly when you’ve only eaten a few mouthfuls is concerning. It’s called early satiety. This may be a sign of other diseases like ulcers but it could also be ovarian cancer.
#3. Weight Loss
Sudden and rapid weight loss when you have not made any changes to your lifestyle or diet is an alarming sign. It is possible that your body’s metabolism is haywire as it fights infection or bacteria in your body. Make an appointment with your doctor to be sure.
#4. Discomfort in The Pelvic Area
Soreness or discomfort in the area below your belly button to your upper legs can be caused by many different illnesses. It can feel like period cramps, leading you to dismiss it.
If you lead a busy and stressful life, fatigue can feel like a regular part of your daily experience. And you may be right — a full night’s rest would typically make you feel better. But if you don’t have the energy to do anything and feel lethargic all the time without exerting any physical effort, then it’s time to take a closer look at your health.
#6. Back Pain
Back pain is not just concentrated in your back. You may feel shooting, stabbing, and burning sensations down to your buttocks and even legs. If you haven’t hurt yourself and are still constantly experiencing pain, it needs to be looked into.
#7. Menstrual Changes
Ovarian cancer can cause significant changes in your periods. Heavy bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, spotting between periods, and missed periods are some of the signs to look for. If you are post-menopausal and experiencing vaginal bleeding, you should talk to your doctor immediately.
#8. A Frequent Need To Urinate
Normally assumed to be a urinary tract infection (UTI), another symptom of ovarian cancer is a strong urge to pee and having to pee more frequently. If you find yourself rushing to the bathroom but only a trickle or nothing comes out, it is a common symptom of ovarian cancer.
Some other symptoms include nausea, constipation, difficulty breathing, unusual vaginal discharge, and painful sex.
3 Different Types Of Ovarian Cancer
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Ovarian cancer is classified into three types: epithelial ovarian carcinomas, germ cell tumors, and stromal cell tumors.
#1. Epithelial Ovarian Carcinomas
The most common type of ovarian cancer, epithelial ovarian carcinomas usually target and spread to the organs lining your abdomen, pelvis, and other body parts.
Almost 90% of ovarian cancers are cancerous epithelial tumors. This type of cancer is usually diagnosed a little too late when it is already in its advanced stages.
Epithelial ovarian cancer can be further categorized into mucinous, serous, endometroid, and clear cell carcinomas.
#2. Germ Cell Tumors
Of all ovarian cancers, germ cell tumors are quite rare, forming approximately 2% of cancer diagnoses.
Teenagers and women in their 20s are most susceptible to this type of ovarian cancer, and it typically only affects one ovary. If the tumor has not spread outside the ovaries, the five-year survival rate is 98%!
#3. Stromal Cell Tumors
This is the least common form of ovarian cancer, with only 1% of ovarian cancers diagnosed as stromal cell tumors. These cell tumors grow on the tissues supporting your ovaries.
The good news about this type of ovarian cancer is it is often easily detectable in its earlier stages since one of its more common symptoms is vaginal bleeding.
How To Check Yourself For Ovarian Cancer
Unfortunately, there is no accurate way to determine by yourself whether you have ovarian cancer. You will need the assistance of your doctor. And it is not an immediate diagnosis because it entails several tests.
Your doctor will start with a pelvic exam and you will then be referred to a gynecologic oncologist. Imaging tests like ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, and barium enema x-ray may also be done as needed.
For further confirmation, your doctor may also recommend other tests including blood tests, laparoscopy, colonoscopy, and biopsy.
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