Ovarian cancer is a gynecologic disorder characterized by a cancerous growth attached to the ovary. Almost 90% of ovarian cancers are “epithelial”, meaning they form on the surface of the ovary. Other types can arise from the egg cells or fallopian tubes. The fallopian cancer cells can easily be mistaken as ovarian cancer because they are so close together.
Because it is a silent condition located inside the pelvis, ovarian cancer is often discovered too late. Most women don’t know what are the symptoms of ovarian cancer but almost one in 100 women will develop it before the age of 75. Early diagnosis improves the cure rate to almost 90 percent. In 70 percent of the cases the cancer is at an advanced stage when a clear diagnostic is put. The main reason for this is that there are no cost-effective screening test and the Pap only detects cervix cancer. Women with ovarian cancer have a high level of the protein CA-125 in the bloodstream but this is also a symptom of fibroid and endometriosis.
Most of the time the cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, but there are a few risk factors. Women that have a second degree relative with the condition and elder women that have never given birth are more predisposed to the disease. Those that have endometriosis, are infertile or use postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy have more chances of developing ovarian cancer. Some forms of cancer are hereditary and are caused by gene mutations. Studies reveal that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 are more frequently affected.
For an early diagnosis, it is important to know what are the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Most of these symptoms are not related to cancer but is important to be aware that they happen more frequent, about 12 times a month, are new and persistent. Only a doctor can tell if they are caused by cancer. These are the most common manifestations:
- Unexplained weight gain or loss;
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge from the vagina;
- A bloated or swollen abdomen;
- Back pain;
- Pelvic pain or campy abdominal pain that lasts more than two weeks and isn’t associated to vomiting or diarrhea ;
- Persistent gas, nausea or indigestion;
- Feeling full after eating just a small amount of food;
- Difficulty in eating;
- Change in the bathroom habits such as constipation, diarrhea , lack of bladder control or the need to urinate more often;
- Loss of appetite;
- Lack of energy and extreme fatigue;
- Shortness of breath.
The early symptoms start suddenly, feel different from normal digestive or menstrual problems and happen every day. It is important to know what are the symptoms of ovarian cancer because the faster it is diagnosed the more effective will the treatment be.