Ovarian Cancer

The American Cancer Society states that the fifth killer of women in the United States is ovarian cancer. It is estimated that in the next year there will be 20,000 new cases of ovarian cancer. Within that same twelve month period 15,000 women will die from ovarian cancer. As with most cancers, early detection is the key to a good survival rate. Due to the fact that ovarian cancer is so hard to detect in its early stages and is often confused with another disease, by the time it is found it has already advanced and spread to other organs.

Sad to say that only 20 percent of the cases of ovarian cancer are found before the tumor has spread to other organs. It hasn't been until recently that doctors have discovered that there are signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer in the early stages. Knowing what these signs and symptoms are can help lead to early detection of ovarian cancer and an increase in survival rates.

So what are the signs and symptoms that you need to be looking for? Unfortunately most often the symptoms that present themselves mimic those of many other common conditions especially bladder and digestive diseases. Many women that are diagnosed with ovarian cancer probably have been diagnosed with another condition prior to the ovarian cancer. The key to knowing if the symptoms are indicating ovarian cancer or another problem is persistency and worsening. A digestive symptom will come and go, if the symptom is from ovarian cancer then there is not any fluctuation in the symptom; it is persistent and gets worse.

These symptoms that women with ovarian cancer experience on a consistent level include abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating, urinary urgency and pelvic pain or discomfort. Additional signs and symptoms may include: persistent indigestion, gas or nausea, unexplained changes in bowel habits, changes in bladder habits, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss or gain, increased abdominal girth, painful intercourse, persistent lack of energy and low back pain. As you can see these symptoms are vague enough to fall under a number of different diseases. Remember the key is the persistency and worsening of the symptom.

The upside here is that after you notice the first signs and symptoms your doctor should be able to diagnose you within three months. Occasionally it can take up to six months or longer before the diagnosis is made.

Treatment most often requires surgery and then chemotherapy. Prevention of ovarian cancer seems to include three factors. One: the use of oral birth control pills - use for three to five years reduces your risk 30 to 50 percent. Two: Pregnancy and breastfeeding - if you have at least one child this reduces your risk of ovarian cancer, and it is believed that breastfeeding for a year or more also helps reduce the risk. Three: tubal ligation or hysterectomy - in a study where thousands of women were followed for 20 years, there was a substantial reduction in ovarian cancer risk in women that have had a tubal ligation.

It is important that the cancer is detected early to increase the chances of survival. Pay attention to your body and what it is saying to you. No one knows you better then you do. As always, talk to your doctor.