Written By: Women and Infants on September 1, 2021
Only around 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the early stages. Ovarian cancer can affect women of any age. The good news is that early diagnosis plays a critical role in ensuring a successful treatment plan. This is why it is important to know the risk factors and early signs of this type of cancer. However, most ovarian cancer symptoms are very subtle in the early stages, and will only become more apparent as cancer progresses. So what body changes should you pay attention to?
Persistent Abdominal Bloating
It is normal for women to experience bloating before and during their periods. However, this uncomfortable feeling will usually go away after a few days. When there is persistent bloating that lasts for weeks, this could be a sign of a problem.
Ovarian cancer can cause a buildup of fluid in the abdomen or pelvis. As such, when you have unexplained and consistent abdominal discomfort, you should not dismiss the symptom.
Constipation or Upset Stomach
Constipation is one of the most common ovarian cancer symptoms. You should be particularly concerned if the initial measures you take do not relieve new constipation. Patients may also experience upset stomach, diarrhea, and other digestive changes.
It is important to pay attention to any changes in your bowel habits. Some gastrointestinal issues may occur as a result of the growing tumor placing pressure on nearby organs such as the bowel.
Prolonged Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
Cancerous masses can put persistent pressure on organs, nerves, and blood vessels in the pelvic area and lower abdomen. This could result in intense pelvic, abdominal, or lower back pain. When the tumor pushes into your vagina, you may experience pain while having sexual intercourse.
While pelvic and abdominal pains can be attributed to other factors, you should not ignore aches that occur often or do not go away. Prolonged pain could be an indication of a more serious health condition such as ovarian cancer.
Change in Bladder Function
Ovarian cancer can cause bladder-related issues. In the early stages of the disease, the growing tumor may crowd your bladder, making it feel full more often. Cancer can also press near your ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. This will lead to ovarian cancer symptoms like an urgent need to urinate, frequent urination, and pain in the bladder.
You may want to seek medical attention if these bladder problems last more than several days. Your doctor will make an accurate diagnosis and develop the right treatment plan for you.
In addition to making patients feel bloated, the fluid buildup associated with ovarian cancer can also contribute to nausea, decreased appetite, and a feeling of fullness even after a light meal. As such, these symptoms could be a red flag that there is a problem. Over time, eating less will result in loss of energy and weight loss.
Although this is not a common sign, ovarian cancer can affect your menstrual periods. Some changes that you may notice when there is a tumor in your ovary are less frequent periods, heavier bleeding, irregular bleeding, or postmenopausal bleeding.
Other early signs of ovarian cancer that you should know are difficulty breathing and unexplained fatigue.
When to See a Doctor
Because of its vague symptoms, ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect in the early stages. However, you should see a doctor for proper ovarian cancer treatment if:
Symptoms last for more than two weeks
The symptoms become more severe
The symptoms are not caused by another medical condition
Home remedies and over-the-counter medications do not relieve the symptoms
If you think you have ovarian cancer, you should consult an experienced physician. Care New England is a network of hospitals across Rhode Island. Our highly trained physicians use advanced diagnostics and the latest technology to provide you with the personalized care you need. Contact us today to learn more.