Ovarian cancer: These are the early signs to watch out for

Majority of people with this cancer are not diagnosed early because the signs are easy to miss.

Ovarian cancer can be treated when detected early before it spreads beyond the ovaries. But most people—four out of five—with this disease are not aware it does not present any noticeable signs in the early stages. But there are some subtle symptoms you should be concerned about.

Risk factors

Like most cancers, there is hardly a way of knowing if one is susceptible to getting the disease. In fact, most women get it without being at high risk. However, some factors may increase your chances of getting the disease, including:

  • If you are middle age or older
  • Having a close family member who had the disease
  • Being of an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background
  • Having a history of endometriosis

People who have had other cancers such as breast, colorectal or uterine cancer are at higher risk of getting ovarian cancer.

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Silent symptoms

Early signs of ovarian cancer may present as those of common health conditions such as urinary tract infections or irritable bowel syndrome.

Without seeing a doctor, these symptoms could easily be dismissed, delaying treatment and increasing the chances of it spreading to other parts of the body. When this happens—as it often does in many cases—the survival rate reduces.
Some of the symptoms that can go unnoticed include:

  • Bloating: This is normal during menstruation or when you eat certain foods, but persistent bloating could be a sign of ovarian cancer and should be reported to a medical professional.
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain: This is one of the commonly reported symptoms among patients. Some women liken the pain to menstrual cramps, like they are being squeezed from inside. Again, do not write this off if it persists; go see a doctor.
  • Change in bathroom routine: It is also common for many people with ovarian cancer to experience constipation, diarrhoea or frequent urination. Relatedly, some patients report burning sensations when urinating or a feeling of a full bladder after urinating.
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You may want to ask about ovarian cancer when you see your doctor as it can be misdiagnosed. Getty/ Visoot Uthairam

Others are loss of appetite, ingestion, back pain, pain during sex and change in menstrual cycle. If you notice any of these signs, talk to your healthcare professional.

As always, listen to your body and trust your guts when something feels off.

Keep in mind that because the symptoms are similar to other conditions, it may be misdiagnosed. You should feel free to ask about ovarian cancer when you see the doctor.

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