According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 19,880 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2022, and 12,810 will die from the disease. Ovarian cancer is treatable when caught early, but its exact cause remains unknown, and many of the symptoms are not noticeable to patients until the disease has progressed. Because of this, patients must understand the subtle signs.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we’re looking at the five most common signs of ovarian cancer that women often mistake for other common health issues.
Most women are used to bloating, particularly around their menstrual period. However, bloating related to ovarian cancer is persistent and may cause the belly to feel puffy or hard because the cause of the bloating can be due to ascites, which forms when cancer cells spread to the lining of the abdomen. Often, the swelling visible.
Pain in the abdomen, pelvis, and back
When tumors related to ovarian cancer increase in size, they can put pressure on your bladder, bowels, and rectum. The pressure can be felt on the spine, explaining abdominal or pelvic pain. For some women, this pain will feel similar to menstrual cramping.
Changes in bowel habits
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and ovarian cancer are remarkably similar. Apart from abdominal pain and bloating, women with ovarian cancer may report changes in their bowel habits. Constipation or diarrhea may become persistent issues as the tumor puts pressure on the bowels. Women with ovarian cancer have also reported an urge to urinate more frequently.
Changes in appetite
Appetite loss in women with ovarian cancer is usually due to the discomfort they feel from other symptoms, particularly bloating and persistent abdominal and pelvic pain. Bloating can also trigger nausea. The cancer also sometimes plays a role in a patient’s loss of appetite when it releases hormones that interfere with the body’s perception of hunger, reducing the appetite.
Changes in your menstrual cycle can include a missed period, bleeding heavier than usual, spotting in between periods, and unusual vaginal discharge. A missed period can be caused by other factors, including low body weight, stress, excessive exercise, hormonal imbalance, or pregnancy. However, whenever you experience menstrual changes, it’s always a good idea to consult with your gynecologist. A health professional can help determine if the changes in your cycle are due to something more serious, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as pelvic pain, bowel movement changes, and bloating.
At Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.