By Sara Bondell - September 19, 2018
Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer.”
Early stages of the disease often cause no symptoms and the cancer has usually spread by the time it is diagnosed. When the disease is finally detected, it is often difficult to treat.
Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 14,000 women will die in the United States this year.
Women are likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread. They include:
- Constant abdominal or pelvic pain— this is usually a sign that ovarian cancer has spread. Tumors can build up in the pelvis, abdomen, bowel and even the diaphragm. This, along with fluid buildup, can cause pain.
- Irregular periods— if there is a tumor in your ovary, it can throw your cycle out of whack. If you notice any big changes, like more or less frequent periods or no periods at all, check with your doctor.
- Feeling bloated or constipated— when ovarian cancer spreads, it can affect the way your bowels work. Things can get backed up and you can feel nauseous or feel like you aren’t able to eat as much as you usually do.
- Urinary symptoms – if you have a tumor in your pelvis it can push on the bladder and decrease the amount of bladder capacity. That makes your bladder feel fuller faster and keeps you going to the bathroom more often.
- Pain during sex— if sex is painful, you could have a tumor that’s pushing into your vagina and being aggravated by sex. Ovarian cancer can also cause hormonal changes that lead to vaginal dryness, which can also cause discomfort during sex.
Gynecological oncologist Dr. Mitchel Hoffman says these symptoms are also commonly caused by non-cancerous diseases or other conditions. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and occur more often than normal or are more severe. You should see a doctor if you have these symptoms more than 12 times a month.