10 Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Cancer is a deadly disease caused by the abnormal proliferation of cells. When cancer affects the ovary, it is referred to as ovarian cancer. Ovaries are the organs linked to the womb; they are the store for a woman’s eggs. Cancer of the ovaries is among the most common cancer types that affect women and is often referred to as the silent killer because the symptoms present as common annoyances.

The disease is often difficult to detect in the initial phases because of the location of the ovaries; which is deep within the abdominal cavity. Ovarian cancer tends to go undetected until it spreads to the abdomen and pelvis. If ovarian cancer is detected early, the tumors can be surgically removed; which could potentially act as a curative measure. The method of treatment, however, usually depends on the size of the tumor, the degree of spread, the physical condition of the patient, and the position of the tumor. Other forms of treatment include chemotherapy and biological therapies. Usually, chemotherapy is done after surgery.

The most susceptible group of women likely to acquire cancer of the ovaries typically includes women over 50 years. Also, most of the women who have undergone menopause are a vulnerable group. However, in some circumstances, the disease affects younger women. An exact cause of ovarian cancer is yet to be discovered but there are various aspects that predispose women to the disease.

In addition to the risk factors already mentioned, other risk factors include being overweight, a history of ovarian or breast cancer in the family, or hormone replacement therapy. Some common symptoms of ovarian cancer include a swollen abdomen, constant bloating, pain during intercourse, abdominal discomfort, consistent urge to urinate, feeling full quickly, and many other symptoms.

1. Abdomen Pain

The disease commonly presents with long-lasting pain and discomfort in the abdomen. The abdomen pain associated with ovarian cancer is usually different from that of normal menstrual cramps. Typically, a woman is advised to see the doctor if abdominal pain goes on for a period of more than two weeks and if the pain is not linked to diarrhea, the stomach flu, or the menstrual period.

Normally, many women do not wait to get help for this symptom as it is uncomfortable to go about day to day routines with abdomen pain. However, many general practitioners rarely see ovarian cancer cases. Hence, it is crucial to watch out for other concurrent signs of ovarian cancer if one experiences abdomen pain. The doctor also needs to know other symptoms a woman is experiencing to offer a more accurate diagnosis; hence the importance of understanding the symptoms.

2. Pelvic Pain

Ovarian cancer causes a distinctive pain in the pelvic area. The pelvic region is located between the main body and the lower extremities. It houses the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, vagina, and the endometrium. The pelvic pain feels different from typical indigestion or menstrual cramps. Research posits that pelvic pain can present in earlier stages of the disease. Hence, paying attention to pelvic pain and seeking a doctor’s opinion could aid earlier diagnoses. In most cases, seeking a doctor’s opinion when one experiences pelvic pain linked to cancer affecting the ovaries might improve the prognosis of the condition and improve survival rate. Early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer can enhance chances of survival.

3. Bloating

Numerous women confuse the incidence of distension with bloating. However, distention is a progressive increase in the size of the abdomen. In contrast, bloating occurs in an intermittent fashion. Consistent bloating is one of the typical symptoms likely to persist in women with ovarian cancer. Bloating associated with ovarian cancer usually occurs unprovoked.

Essentially, if the bloating occurs without any accompanying diet or activity changes, then it is advisable to pay a visit to the doctor. It is imperative to consider that the non-specific nature of symptoms such as bloating can make it difficult to discern if the sign is associated with ovarian cancer. Bloating associated with ovarian cancer may be adverse to the point that clothes might feel tighter around the waist.

4. Change in Bowel Habits

Numerous individuals to take normal bowel movements for granted. However, in some cases, it is crucial to watch out for abnormal bowel habits. A noticeable change in bowel habits may occur in women with ovarian cancer. Some women have cited mistaking ovarian cancer for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A change in bowel habits usually occurs because of the likelihood that the swollen ovarian tumor exerts pressure on the bladder, bowel, and stomach. It could also happen due to the buildup of fluid in the abdominal region. In most cases, eating habits are interrupted and one might feel full quickly and experience constipation, or diarrhea. The symptoms often become worse as cancer spreads.

5. Fluid in the Abdomen

Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen is referred to as ascites. Upon examination by a healthcare professional, the fluid usually appears as a pale yellow and clear fluid. Research suggests that women who are found to have ascites in the abdomen ought to be referred to a physician immediately. Fluid in the abdomen can lead to compromised respiratory systems, abdominal pain, and early satiety. Most cancers in the advanced stage may present with ascites. In the early stages, fluid buildup can be treated using standard treatment, but in late stages, management of large fluid volumes can be challenging as only symptom relief can be offered. Further, late-stage fluid in the abdomen can lead to sepsis.

6. Nausea

It is common for nausea to occur after eating bad food or due to IBS. However, when nausea occurs unprovoked, then there is a reason to see a doctor. Research has found that many women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer report nausea as one of the common symptoms to appear five months or less before a diagnosis is done. Nausea might occur due to the imbalance of hormones responsible for metabolism. Numerous studies posit that women diagnosed with early-stage cancers are more likely to report nausea when compared to those with late stage cancers. If nausea occurs in combination with other common cancer symptoms, then it is critical to seek a doctor’s opinion.

7. Cancer-related Fatigue

It is imperative to differentiate between fatigue and the feeling of tiredness. While it is common to feel tired, a persistent feeling of tiredness that does not recede after a good night’s sleep is abnormal. Unexplained fatigue is frequently overlooked. It is crucial to note that cancer-related fatigue usually comes suddenly, and is not caused by activity or exertion. Many women dismiss it for fatigue caused by intensive work schedules. It is important to seek a doctor’s opinion if one suffers debilitating fatigue that does not seem to wane over a long period of time. Further, if the fatigue is accompanied by the other symptoms discussed in this article, then it is only prudent to seek a physician’s opinion.

8. Loss of Appetite

Ovarian cancer is known to cause appetite abnormalities because it affects metabolism and nutritional complications. As previously mentioned, ovarian cancer tends to interfere with hormones responsible for metabolism. Metabolism is the breakdown of food by the body to provide energy. If this process is interrupted, then it is likely that the woman will experience a drastic loss of appetite. The loss of appetite in most of the women with ovarian cancer appears abruptly and is accompanied by indigestion, nausea, gas, and other gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn. While a drop in appetite is easily dismissed, it is important to seek a doctor’s opinion if the symptom occurs concurrently with other cancer symptoms.

9. Weight Loss

For many women grappling with excess weight, losing weight might come as a welcome change. However, it is imperative to observe caution if one loses a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Unexplained weight loss that is unintentional is indicative of a serious problem. One should be concerned if they lose 5% of their body weight in a period ranging six to twelve months without any exercise or diet changes. It is common for ovarian cancer patients to suddenly lose weight without any accompanying exercising or dieting regime. Consequently, rapid and unexplained weight loss should be a reason to see a physician.

10. Lump in the Abdomen

Present-day research studies have updated the different guidelines that are applied to recognize and manage the disease. One of the common symptoms that researchers have found is that women with ovarian cancer have been found to have a mass in the abdomen. If there is a lump in the abdomen, it is essential to see the physician immediately. Usually, if the physician discovers a palpable mass during the examination, that is not diagnosed to be uterine fibroids, a gastrointestinal problem, or a urological problem, then it is likely an ultrasound scan will be done. The ultrasound can determine if the lump is caused by cancer of the ovaries.