According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, but accounts for more deaths per year (~15,000) than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Why? Because it is difficult to detect in the early stages since the small, almond-shaped organs are buried deep in the abdomen and often create only non-specific mild symptoms.
So what can you do? Know your risk factors and be aware of the symptoms. Potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
- Upset stomach or heartburn
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Constipation or menstrual changes
Persistence of symptoms is KEY. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only around 19% of ovarian cancer cases are found in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form. Remember to report all symptoms to your doctor, as disconnected, unusual, or mild as they may be. Visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition for more information.