The abdomen is the place where most of the organs are placed. That’s why it’s very hard to diagnose ovarian cancer, especially in the early stage, because the symptoms and pain are similar to other possible diseases.
So, we can agree that ovarian cancer does not show any specific symptomatic characteristics in the early stages. If you feel pressure on the bladder, uterus or rec**m, possibly the cancer got bigger and is putting extra pressure on those tissues.
However, here’s a big list of symptoms, which are highly likely to happen even if you don’t have an early stage of ovarian cancer, but be sure to make a biopsy if you have experienced the majority of the following:
- Painful s*x
- Menstrual changes
- Back pain
- Unexplainable exhaustion
- A pressure in the lower back
- The need to urinate more frequently
- Weight loss
- Abdominal swellings
If the development of these symptoms in your body is sudden, or continues in some period of time, regardless on the normal treatments for these symptoms, you should definitely see your doctor.
Your family doctor, or gynecologist should be the first one to know, since we don’t want to upset anyone if we’re not sure in the diagnosis.
Also, there are certain RISK FACTORS that make some people more vulnerable and more likely to get ovarian cancer. Those include:
- Never being pregnant
- Presence of the Lynch syndrome
- Having BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene
- After menopause
On the other hand, factors that LOWER the RISK of getting ovarian cancer are:
- Getting pregnant
- Having your ovaries removed (normally, not if you’re a young girl)
We agreed that if you have the majority of the mentioned symptoms and they appear repeatedly, you should pay your doctor a visit. He/she will start asking when the symptoms began and how they respond with the normal treatment, how often they occur, how you feel at the moment etc.
Than, the doctor will read your and your family’s medical history, especially the ovarian or breast cancer in the women. Than, the doctor will schedule a pelvic exam, which is needed to see if the ovaries are somehow bigger or if there’s additional fluid in your abdomen.
Additional check-up will be needed if:
- Abnormalities show up during the pelvic exam
- Your medical history puts you in the risky zone of getting an ovarian cancer
Than, if the answer to the above is positive, the doctor will recommend an oncologist – a specialist for cancerogenic diseases of the reproductive system and pass you further on with the testing.
The most common tests that are used in the field of medicine for detection of ovarian cancer are:
- CA-125 blood test. This test measures how much of the CA-125 protein is present in the blood. If the level is higher than normal, it shows possibility of having ovarian cancer. However, exceptions are always possible, as the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA) states, because having high levels of this protein can also be linked to pelvic inflammatory diseases.
- CT scans – computed tomography. Special type of x-rays pass through your abdomen while having a CT scan, creating a computer image that shows the doctors the abdominal cavity and pelvis section.
- Biopsy. A biopsy includes a needle (not a huge one) in your body, which draws a piece of the tissue which is believed to have cancerogenic cells. Than this piece is sent to the laboratory for check-up. These results and the tissue selected with the biopsy is very important for diagnosing ovarian cancer.
- TVUS – transvag**al ultrasound. During this test, an ultrasound is inserted into the vag**a, emitting waves that echo back and thus create an image. If solid tissue growth is detected, doctors will furthermore request a biopsy to determine the nature of the tissue – if it’s cancerogenic or not.
The National Cancer Institute estimated that 2.3% of all cancer deaths in the year of 2018 belong to ovarian cancer. However, if early diagnosed, a patient lives more than 5 years in 92% of all ovarian cancer diagnosis. But, because symptoms of this type of cancer are very similar to other conditions and diseases, many women overlook them.
It is also very highly unlikely for a doctor to diagnose ovarian cancer during a regular gynecologist check-up in early stages, not if you don’t explain furthermore symptoms and issues that go along with you and your body lately.
So, even for a small symptom, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask, share and talk about it with your doctor.