Being aware of these symptoms of ovarian cancer can make a big difference
It’s something we all hope we’ll never have to deal with: cancer. We feel like more and more people are suffering from this horrible disease. One type of cancer that is awfully prevalent is ovarian cancer. This type of cancer appears in one or both of the ovaries. A lot of women who have this disease don’t notice that they’re ill because it doesn’t have that many clear symptoms like breast cancer or skin cancer. We will inform you about some of the most common symptoms in this article.
Only one per cent of all women recognise the most common symptom of ovarian cancer.
According to Shannon Westin, doctor and associate professor of oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t very easy to recognise. “They’re very discreet, easy to ignore and can be attributed to other things, like a change in diet.” Unfortunately, ignoring the symptoms leaves the disease room to develop which means that it will be more difficult to treat when it is discovered. “It often leads to a late diagnosis,” Westin explains. Although the symptoms are quite vague, it’s important to visit your doctor if you experience one or more of the symptoms we explain below.
A British survey conducted by Target Ovarian Cancer showed that only one per cent of all women recognise the most common symptom of ovarian cancer. Per day (!) no less than 11 women pass away due to this disease in England alone, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms. The symptom so few women recognise is the fact that you need to go to the toilet much more often than before.
These are seven of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer.
1. Persisting pain in the abdomen or pelvis
According to Mitchel Hoffman, a gynaecological oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer centre, persisting pain in the abdomen or pelvis is usually a sign that the cancer has spread. “When we do surgery on people with ovarian cancer, the majority has metastases,” he explains. Tumours can occur in the upper part of the abdomen, the large intestine and all the way to the midriff. Ovarian cancer can also cause fluid retention. All of these factors can cause pain.
2. Nausea and decreased appetite
When ovarian cancer spreads, it can start to influence the way your bowel operates. You might feel full sooner or you could feel like you can eat less than you did before. If this is the case, it could be that your stomach has less space than before because of a growing tumour, or there might be a buildup of fluid in the way.
“Ovarian cancer can cause a bloated feeling because of the decreased bowel function,” Hoffman explains. “To make sure your bowel functions properly, the muscles in the bowel must be strong enough to push things through.” However, when cancer develops on the outside of the intestine (which is what happens when ovarian cancer spreads) it can affect the muscle function. A bloated feeling is especially suspicious if there haven’t been any changes in your diet or exercise regime.
4. You have to pee a lot
We already mentioned this symptom, but having to pee often can be a symptom of ovarian cancer, Hoffman explains. “There’s only a limited amount of space in the pelvis,” he says. “If a woman develops a tumour there, it will press on the bladder and reduce its capacity.” This can make your bladder feel more full and cause you to have to pee more often.
5. Irregular menstrual cycle
This symptom is important, Hoffman says. When there’s a tumour in your ovary, it can disrupt the normal function of your blood and eventually disrupt your cycle as well. So, pay attention when you notice a big change in your menstrual cycle (more often, less often) and visit your doctor.
6. Pain during intercourse
There are multiple causes of experiencing pain during intercourse and some of them are related to ovarian cancer. Hoffman explains: “It could be that an ovarian tumour presses on your vagina, which leads to pressure, which can cause pain. Another possibility is that the hormonal changes that occur in your body when you have ovarian cancer can lead to dryness. This can cause discomfort or pain as well.”
7. Stomach acid or heartburn
“Since ovarian cancer messes with your bowl, it can also have an influence on the rest of your body,” Westin explains. “Things are pushing into your stomach which makes your oesophagus push back. Everything goes in the wrong direction and that can cause hearburn or stomach acid.”
Ovarian cancer is more common in older women so if you’re still young and you are experiencing one of these symptoms, there’s a considerable chance they’re symptoms of something else. Nevertheless, it’s important to remain vigilant and to keep a careful eye on your body. If you’re worried something might be wrong, you should visit your doctor.