What Was Your First Sign of Ovarian Cancer?

Reviewed on 4/23/2021

11 Early signs of ovarian cancer

Like all types of cancer, ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic. The first signs of ovarian cancer may vary from patient to patient.
Like all types of cancer, ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic. The first signs of ovarian cancer may vary from patient to patient.

Like all types of cancer, ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic. The first signs of ovarian cancer may vary from patient to patient. Typically, ovarian cancer symptoms might appear as common stomach and digestive problems that are often mistaken for minor ailments. However, common early signs and symptoms may include

  1. Constant discomfort in the lower abdomen
  2. Persistent stomach bloating
  3. An enlarged abdomen or a lump felt on lying down
  4. Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly
  5. Frequent urination
  6. Constipation and other digestive changes
  7. Difficulty breathing
  8. Low fever
  9. Unusual vaginal bleeding
  10. Abdominal, back, or pelvic pain
  11. Loss of energy and appetite

Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in older women; they are rarely diagnosed in women younger than 40 years of age and are more often diagnosed in women who are going through or have reached menopause. Other signs of ovarian cancer are as follows:

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease where some of the cells in one or both ovaries start to grow abnormally and develop into a mass. The ovaries are responsible for the production of eggs and female hormones during a woman’s reproductive life. Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries but can quickly spread throughout the body. There are three types of ovarian cancer:

  1. Epithelial tumor: It is the most common type that affects the surface layers of the ovary.
  2. Germ cell tumor: It begins in the cells that eventually develop into the eggs.
  3. Stromal cell and other rare types: They may include sex-cord stromal cell ovarian cancer, stromal tumors and sarcomas.

It is also possible to have borderline epithelial tumors that are sometimes called low malignant potential tumors.

Risk factors:

Women older than 63 years of age are at high risk of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecological cancer-related deaths among women aged 35 to 74 years of age. Most forms of ovarian cancer develop after a woman reaches menopause. Other risk factors may include:

Stages of ovarian cancer (FIGO system):

  1. Stage I: Cancer is in one or both the ovaries only.
  2. Stage II: Cancer is in one or both the ovaries and has spread to other organs in the pelvis (uterus, fallopian tubes, bladder, or bowel).
  3. Stage III: Cancer is in one or both the ovaries and has spread beyond the pelvis to the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen) or the nearby lymph nodes.
  4. Stage IV: Cancer has spread further to distant organs such as the lung or liver.

Treatment options:

Ovarian cancer treatment depends upon the stage of cancer, size of the tumor, age and health of the woman. Most often, ovarian cancer is treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

Surgery:

Surgery is the most common treatment for ovarian cancer. Surgery options can include

  • Salpingo-oophorectomy: It involves removal of one or both the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
  • Debulking: It involves removal of as much of the tumor as possible.
  • Hysterectomy: It involves removal of the uterus and sometimes the cervix.
  • Omentectomy: It involves removal of the fatty tissue that covers the organs in the lower abdomen.

Radiation therapy:

  • External beam radiation treatments may be used for recurring ovarian cancer. During this treatment, a high-energy beam of radiation is directed to the tumor for a few minutes. This procedure is repeated five days a week for several weeks.

Chemotherapy:

  • Special drugs designed to kill the cancer cells can be given as a pill or an intravenous (IV) injection or can be injected into the abdominal cavity. Chemotherapy can be given in combination with surgery.

Prevention:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat balanced diet with fruits and vegetables
  • Be physically active, at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week
  • Abstain from tobacco; no form is safe
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, for example, one drink/day for women

Awareness is the key. Women need to be counseled routinely on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, hopefully leading to early detection and treatment. Because ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed in the later stages, only about 20 percent of patients remain disease-free after initial therapy. That means further treatment is required. Every year, more than 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The five-year survival rate is extremely high for patients with localized ovarian cancer and for those whose ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated early. These women often go on to live long, healthy lives. However, the rate for all stages combined is under 50 percent, and stage IV ovarian cancer has a very low long-term rate of survival.

QUESTION

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References
Ovarian cancer prevention in high-risk women: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5920567/

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