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Ovarian cancer is a severe condition. Discover the first eight warning signs of ovarian cancer.

Oct 01, 2023 By Madison Evans

The ' silent killer' of ovarian cancer has nonspecific signs that go unreported until the disease is advanced. Most ovarian cancer comes from epithelial cells, but germ and stromal cells can also cause it. This condition can progress stealthily, so early detection is vital.

Early Detection Matters

Treatment, quality of life, and survival rate differ substantially between early and late findings. Early detection improves ovarian cancer treatment, according to the American Cancer Society. More specifically:

  • Early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer has a 90% 5-year relative survival rate.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate lowers to 75% for ovarian cancer that has migrated to neighboring tissues or organs and regional lymph nodes.
  • Unfortunately, most ovarian cancer patients are detected after cancer has progressed when the 5-year relative survival rate is 30%.

Why Symptoms Go Unnoticed

Early-stage ovarian cancer symptoms are often non-specific and can be attributed to benign illnesses. Ovarian cancer is typically undiagnosed until it is advanced due to this cause. Regular medical checkups can help spot these symptoms earlier, especially for high-risk patients.

The Top 8 Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer’s elusive nature, stemming from its subtle symptoms, emphasizes the need for women to be more perceptive and attuned to changes in their bodies. Examining the warning signs thoroughly, evaluating their frequency and associated risks.

1. Persistent Bloating

  • Presentation: A swollen or distended abdomen lasting more than two weeks.
  • Associated Risks: Persistent bloating may indicate fluid buildup in the abdomen, known as ascites, often linked with ovarian cancer.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: If dietary and lifestyle changes don’t alleviate bloating, it's paramount to consult a healthcare provider.
  • Diagnostic Tests: An ultrasound may evaluate fluid accumulation or ovarian masses.

2. Pelvic or Abdominal Pain

  • Presentation: Continuous discomfort or pain in the lower belly region, unrelated to menstrual cycles.
  • Associated Risks: Such pain might signify the growth of a tumor or increased pressure on nearby organs.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Ongoing pain should not be dismissed as merely menstrual cramps or digestive issues. Medical consultation is essential.
  • Diagnoses: An MRI or CT scan may be ordered to locate the pain.

3. Difficulty Eating or Feeling Full Quickly

  • Presentation: A sensation of fullness after consuming only a tiny portion of food.
  • Associated Risks: This can suggest swelling or pressure in the abdominal region, potentially due to a growing mass.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Monitoring dietary habits and differentiating between loss of appetite and early satiety is vital. Health professionals must be consulted.
  • Diagnostic Tests: An MRI or CT scan may help diagnose the discomfort.

4. Urinary Symptoms

  • Presentation: An abrupt change in urinary habits, such as frequent urination or a strong urge to urinate.
  • Associated Risks: These symptoms can hint at a mass pressing on the bladder.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Excluding urinary tract infections, if symptoms persist, medical consultation is essential.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Bladder function tests or pelvic ultrasounds may be performed.

5. Fatigue

  • Presentation: Consistent tiredness or decreased energy levels without an identifiable reason.
  • Associated Risks: While fatigue is a common symptom across various ailments, it can indicate the systemic effect of cancer.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Documenting energy levels and correlating them with activity can be beneficial. Any anomalies should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Blood tests might be done to evaluate overall health and rule out other conditions.

6. Menstrual Irregularities

  • Presentation: Unexpected vaginal bleeding or alterations in menstrual patterns.
  • Associated Risks: Abnormal bleeding can indicate various health concerns, including ovarian cancer.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Noting down menstrual irregularities and discussing them with a gynecologist can aid in early detection.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Hormonal assessments or pelvic ultrasounds may be considered.

7. Unexplained Weight Loss

  • Presentation: Noticeable weight reduction without evident changes in diet or activity levels.
  • Associated Risks: Unexpected weight loss can signify several cancers, including ovarian.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Tracking and correlating weight fluctuations with dietary and lifestyle changes can offer insights. Persistent, unexplained weight loss warrants medical attention.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Comprehensive health assessments, including imaging and blood tests, might be performed.

8. Constipation

  • Presentation: Consistent constipation without any discernible dietary or lifestyle causes.
  • Associated Risks: A tumor may press against the large intestine, causing bowel obstruction.

Actions To Be Taken Now

  • Immediate Action: Monitoring bowel movements and seeking medical guidance if constipation persists beyond usual durations or dietary reasons.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Gastrointestinal tests or CT scans might be recommended.

Diagnostic Approaches for Suspected Cases

A patient's journey through the diagnostic process and how to prevent ovarian cancer for ovarian cancer is multi-faceted. The array of tests and examinations aim to offer a definitive stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis, ensure accurate staging, and guide the most effective stage 4 ovarian cancer treatment plan.

Physical Examination

  • Objective: A thorough pelvic examination serves to detect any abnormalities, masses, or fluid buildup in the pelvic or abdominal area.
  • Scope: It involves palpating the abdomen and pelvic region, assessing the size and shape of the ovaries, and identifying any unusual growths or formations.

Advanced Imaging Techniques

  • Critical Role: Imaging tests offer a closer look at the ovaries, allowing for the identification of tumors, cysts, or other anomalies.
  • Transabdominal and Transvaginal Ultrasounds: Both serve as the primary imaging tests. The former offers a broad view of the abdomen, while the latter provides a detailed image of how to prevent ovarian cancer in reproductive organs.
  • CT Scans and MRIs: For more detailed views or when ultrasounds are inconclusive, CT scans or MRIs might be used. They can identify smaller tumors and give information about a tumor's size, location, and involvement with other tissues.

Blood Tests

  • CA-125 Test: Measures the amount of CA-125 protein in the blood, a potential indicator of ovarian cancer. Remembering that other conditions can also cause elevated CA-125 levels is paramount, so this test isn't definitive.
  • HE4 Test: Another potential marker for ovarian cancer, the Human epididymis protein 4 (HE4) test, can be used alongside the CA-125 test to increase diagnostic accuracy.

Biopsy

  • Need for a Biopsy: If previous tests suggest the presence of ovarian cancer, a biopsy provides conclusive evidence.
  • Procedure: Extract a tiny tissue sample from the suspected tumor and microscopically analyze it for cancer cells.

Bottom Line

Awareness of how to prevent ovarian cancer is the first step against ovarian cancer. Recognition and action on these warning indicators can lead to early diagnosis, which improves treatment and recovery. It is necessary to consult a doctor if you face these symptoms.

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