When diagnosed early, nearly all cases of ovarian cancer are treatable, and women can expect to continue living a full life. Unfortunately, though, the early signs of ovarian cancer are easily overlooked, and most women don’t make an appointment until the cancer reaches its later stages.
The best thing you can do is learn the symptoms of ovarian cancer, your own risk factors, and what to do if you suspect a problem.
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Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer
Learn the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer to stay one step ahead of this silent killer:
Abdominal bloating. Ovarian cancer can cause an abnormal buildup of fluid in the pelvis or abdomen (ascites), creating an uncomfortable, bloated feeling.
Increased urinary urgency. Growing tumors crowd adjacent tissues and organs. This crowding can make your bladder feel full more often. If you develop bladder spasms or urinary urgency, it’s time to make an appointment.
Persistent back, pelvic, or abdominal pain. Again, cancerous masses can put pressure on neighboring organs, causing them to ache or throb. Pain in the surrounding areas might also result if the cancer has spread.
Changes in bowel habits. You may experience constipation and diarrhea. When the tumor places pressure on your bowels, stool may become thinner.
Decreased appetite or difficulty eating. Nausea, a diminished appetite, or a “full stomach” sensation may be early signs of ovarian cancer. This year, the American Cancer Society’s annual Cancer Facts and Statistics Report featured a special section dedicated to the warning signs of ovarian cancer. Researchers know that if women can just catch this condition earlier, thousands of lives could be saved each year. So while the occasional “full tummy feeling” may not indicate trouble, prolonged appetite loss (especially when combined with the other warning signs of ovarian cancer) can be reason for concern.
Fatigue. Sometimes caused by a lack of nutrition from the decreased appetite, and other times caused by the cancer itself, a nagging weariness or exhaustion should not be ignored. If your body is working overtime to fight the disease or if other symptoms are disturbing restful sleep, you may feel fatigued, which is one of the most commonly reported ovarian cancer symptoms.
If you have unexplained symptoms, it’s wise to do a little research before calling your doctor. However, many online sources lead people to conclusions that are one-sided or ill-informed. If you’re experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms, the worst thing to do is wait. Visit the experts at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital or call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) to learn more about what to watch for and whom to talk to if you suspect you have symptoms of ovarian cancer.
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For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.