Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Symptoms are subtle and are frequently mistaken or even misdiagnosed. This creates a situation where cancer has more time to spread, making it exponentially harder to manage and treat. The cause of ovarian cancer entails the multiplication of abnormal cells very rapidly to form a tumor (clump of cells), which then metastasizes (spreads to other parts of the body). The majority of the time, diagnosis takes place when a patient is already in an advanced stage. While ovarian cancer accounts for a mere 3% of all cancers among women, it is responsible for the most of the mortality rate of reproductive system cancers.
Ladies, here are ten indicators of ovarian cancer that you should keep an eye out for!
1. Abdominal Pain
This pain in the stomach and/or pelvic region should feel different from discomfort due to menstruation, stomach flu, and indigestion. If the abdominal pain persists for more than two weeks or is unbearable, it’s time to get it looked at.
Vomiting? Nauseous? Gassy? Acidic taste in your mouth? Pain in your belly? Burning pain sensations inside of your belly? These are all signs of indigestion and can be very persistent and extremely uncomfortable.
3. Loss of Appetite
You might experience less interest in eating for numerous reasons. This might be due to cancer itself or other symptoms of cancer which make it harder to eat or result in a loss of appetite. Cancer causes changes to your metabolism (the breakdown of food that gives your body energy at the cellular level), creates acid buildup in your stomach –which makes you feel full even when you haven’t eaten–, or can even cause anemia (not enough red blood cells in your body).
Bloating is a pain in the belly and/or pelvic region that is seemingly ever-present. To differentiate between “normal” bloating and ovarian cancer bloating, bloating pertaining to ovarian cancer occurs when there is little to no change in your dietary and exercise patterns.
5. Urinary Pattern Changes
You may find that you have to urinate more frequently and urgently, for instance. It’s likely you’ll have to empty your bladder more often than usual, or become completely overwhelmed with the need to urinate all of a sudden. The development of urinary incontinence, which is a complete loss of control of your bladder, makes it hard to reach the bathroom before you urinate! Generally speaking, these problems may significantly worsen over a week or two.
6. Feeling Full Quickly
As mentioned earlier, acid buildup in the stomach can be responsible for feeling full when not having eaten at all or having barely eaten. However, the tumor itself can also be responsible in some cases, dependent on its position and the stage of cancer. This also holds true for advanced stages of cancer.
7. Excretory System Changes
You may have changes in your bowel habits and may experience diarrhea and/or constipation. This is because it is possible that the tumor is putting pressure directly on the bowels, although this can also be experienced in the stomach and the bladder. For constipation treatment, dietary changes, exercise, and mild laxatives can provide relief, but the underlying issue still must be examined.
8. Lower Back Pain
A constant, dull ache in the lower back may be indicative of ovarian cancer.
9. Sudden Weight Loss
Although weight loss is a universal sign of all types of cancer, a loss of 10 pounds or more without making dietary or exercise changes is especially common for women with ovarian cancer. Typically, this occurs in the earliest stages of cancer and is unexpected and very rapid. Therefore, you should seek immediate help from your primary care physician if you experience sudden weight loss.
10. Vaginal Bleeding and Abnormalities
This includes “spotting” or irregular bleeding when it is not your normal menstrual cycle. Changes (especially thickening) of vaginal discharge, blisters, sores, or color changes in the vaginal region can also be telling.
If you experience these signs, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional. However, keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive. It is critical to report early signs of ovarian cancer so that it can be caught ASAP. Early detection can prevent it from developing to an advanced stage. Notably, there are various treatment options for ovarian cancer, including different types of therapy (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy), surgery, and many other alternative options and support systems available!