A couple of weeks ago, there was a headline that seemed to give some encouraging news about earlier detection of Ovarian Cancer. Crabby was quite happy to see this news: "Ovarian Cancer Has Early Warning Signs."
Why did this seem like such good news? A couple of reasons:
1. Ovarian cancer can be a deadly disease if not caught early; and
2. It's been known as a "silent killer" because it's so rarely detected until the later stages.
But reading beyond the headlines, the news didn't sound so encouraging after all. Crabby almost decided not to post about it, but since some information is better than none, and some of you might have missed this, she'll pass it along. This information comes via the American Cancer Society, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, and seventeen other cancer organizations have endorsed it. So who is Crabby to say it won't be useful?
So here are some important symptoms to watch out for:
Pelvic or abdominal pain;
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and
Urgent or frequent urination.
What bothers Crabby is that these seem both a bit vague and also very common. Most times, if they mean anything at all, it's more likely irritable bowel syndrome, or menstrual bloating, or urinary tract infections, or any number of benign causes.
According to Barbara Goff, an impressively titled person at the University of Washington, women with any of these symptoms may want to see a gynecologist, especially if the problems are "new, severe and occur almost daily for more than two or three weeks." The next step is often pelvic and rectal exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for a cancer marker. Unfortunately, even these tests aren't very accurate. And further diagnostic testing is fairly invasive.
There are some other symptoms of ovarian cancer too, but these aren't always much help either because they're so darn common:
Irregular vaginal bleeding;
Gastro-intestinal symptoms such as heartburn and nausea;
Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation and diarrhea;
Tiredness and appetite loss; and
Unexplained weight loss or weight gain.
No woman wants to be thought of as a neurotic hypochondriac. But checking out early warning signs could save your life.
And really, it's good news that most people with these symptoms don't have cancer. So if you notice these warning signs, you don't have to freak out.
But do stop into your doctor's office, especially if the symptoms are new and severe and don't go away soon. Please?