4 signs of ovarian cancer you should know, according to a cancer doctor

·3 min read
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Symptoms like bloating or abdominal pain can sometimes indicate reproductive issues like ovarian cancer.chokja/Getty Images
  • Ovarian cancer often isn't detected until it's spread to other areas of the body.

  • Symptoms can be vague and hard to identify from other possible health issues (including other cancers).

  • If you have persistent appetite loss, bloating, or pelvic pain, seek medical care, a cancer doctor said.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports.

While it isn't as common as other cancers of the female reproductive system, like endometrial cancer, it's more likely to be fatal, according to the ACS.

A challenge of treating ovarian cancers is that they often aren't detected until the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, according to Dr. Eleonora Teplinsky, head of breast medical oncology at Valley Health System and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai.

"Ovarian cancer is usually not diagnosed at an early stage. By the time you have symptoms, it's typically advanced," Teplinsky told Insider.

Symptoms can also be vague and difficult to distinguish from other health conditions, she said. If you notice changes to your appetite, unexplained bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, or feel a mass, it' s important to see a doctor, particularly if symptoms persist for longer than a few weeks.

A sense of fullness or loss of appetite might be a cancer symptom

One easy-to-miss symptom of reproductive cancer can be disruption of your eating habits. If you start to notice you aren't hungry, have trouble eating, or get full quickly for more than two or three weeks, consider getting tested.

While appetite issues can vary from person to person and don't always mean cancer, it's helpful to be aware of any major, unexplained changes to your body or health.

"It's important to know what feels normal for your body to notice if something feels off," Teplinsky said. "If you're taking a few bites of food and feel too full to keep eating, that's not normal."

Bloating can be a indicator of possible cancer

While difficulty eating can cause weight loss, reproductive cancers can also cause bloating or swelling in the abdominal area that may make it look as though you've gained weight.

Again, bloat by itself can have many causes that aren't cancer. If it persists over time, it's worth making an appointment just to be safe, however.

"It's very easy to write off these symptoms as something else, but if they don't go away, you need to get checked out," Teplinsky said

Pelvic pain or pain during sex is reason to see a doctor

Unexplained pain in the abdomen or pelvic areas, or painful sex, may also be a hint that something isn't right.

Pelvic pain may also occur with other reproductive cancers, such as endometrial or uterine cancer, which share many symptoms with ovarian cancer.

Unlike uterine cancer, which can be linked to lifestyle factors like diet and exercise habits, ovarian cancer is often related to factors you can't change, like genetics and age, according to Teplinsky.

"The biggest thing is knowing your risk. Unlike mammograms and colonoscopies, screening doesn't exist for the general population," she said.

The best strategy is to be aware of any family history you may have, and be proactive about testing for cancer, since it may otherwise go undetected.

Feeling a mass in your abdomen is cause for concern

It's possible for ovarian cancer to be detected as a mass in the abdominal area that you can actually feel, or that a healthcare provider will notice in a health exam.

However, it often isn't noticeable until later stages, and early tumors may not be big enough to feel, according to the ACS.

As a result, the right kind of testing is important; imaging can help identify cancer and what type, Teplinsky said.

Read the original article on Insider