Ovarian Cancer: Know the Signs and Symptoms

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There are several types of cancers that affect women and their reproductive organs, but one of the most concerning is ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, almost 14,000 people will die from ovarian cancer in 2019, with over 22,000 women being diagnosed this year. 

The best thing you can do is stay informed and understand your risks and the signs of this type of cancer. That way, you are able to see your doctor as early of a diagnosis as possible.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is one of many cancers that can occur in the female reproductive system. This cancer, as you might have guessed, begins in your ovaries, but can spread just like any other cancer. In the early stages, ovarian cancer typically starts in one of the two ovaries that are on either side of the uterus. Since there are so few symptoms, most women don’t find out about their ovarian cancer until a later stage. The reason this is so dangerous is that y that point, it might have spread to other organs within the abdomen or pelvis.

Signs of This Cancer

The main danger with ovarian cancer is that it causes little to no symptoms during the early stages. Unless you are at high risk and you get early screening tests, it is more likely that it won’t be found until the later stages. However, here are some potential symptoms to be aware of.

The best thing you can do is be self-aware, understanding changes in your own body when you notice them. You should also get routine pap smears and exams from your doctor. Some potential signs women with ovarian cancer have reported include:

Bloating in the abdomen, with no other known cause.

Unintended weight loss.

Discomfort or odd cramping in the pelvic area with no known cause. 

Constipation or other bowel movement changes. 

Feeling full immediately after eating.

Are You at an Increased Risk?

Some people might be at a risk for developing ovarian cancer and should get routine screenings. This includes women who:

Are older women – Ovarian cancer is more common among older women, typically in their 60s or older. This doesn’t mean you can’t get it if you are younger, but it is much less likely.

Use infertility treatment – Again, not all women who use infertility treatment are at high risk for ovarian cancer. However, if you have one of the other risks and also get infertility treatment like IVF, you have a risk of ovarian tumors. In some cases, these can turn into malignant tumors.

Have cancer run in the family – If you have another woman in your family who had ovarian cancer or other cancers of their reproductive organs, you might be at a higher risk. Similarly, some genetic mutations, like Lynch Syndrome, can also raise your risk for this and other cancers.

Are obese – Being obese or overweight for an extended period of time is known to lead to a higher risk for a variety of cancers, including ovarian cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Here is a look at the diagnosis and treatment process for this type of cancer:

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer – To diagnose this cancer requires multiple steps. Typically, it starts with a pelvic exam to look for masses on the ovaries and other reproductive organs. Imaging tests like MRIs and CT scans can look more closely at the ovaries, along with organ function tests by testing your blood.

Treating Ovarian Cancer – The treatment protocol will change slightly based on your situation, but often requires removing the ovaries, then going through chemotherapy.

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