Finding Ovarian Cancer Earlier

Womans Health : Silhouette of woman, over a female symbol and caduceus
It might be possible to diagnose ovarian cancer earlier by tweaking the schedule of tests that help diagnose the disease, new research shows.

But first, women can take charge by seeing their doctor for symptoms that would increase their suspicion of ovarian cancer and following up if those symptoms don't go away, even if tests don't immediately note ovarian cancer.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the No. 4 cause of cancer death in U.S. women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Ovarian cancer rates have been dropping since 1991, but the disease remains the seventh most common cancer among American women (not counting skin cancer), states the ACS' web site.

Ovarian cancer often doesn't reveal itself right away; it is often called a silent cancer. However, many women with this cancer do report symptoms months earlier even with early-stage cancer.

Unfortunately, it's estimated that 75 percent to 80 percent of cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

Persistent symptoms can include:

  • Discomfort or cramping in the stomach or abdomen
  • Pelvic pressure or discomfort in the lower back
  • Gastrointestinal problems (such as persistent bloating or intestinal gas that isn't relieved by home treatments)
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Nausea, lack of appetite, drop in energy level
Those symptoms could have nothing to do with ovarian cancer, but they may be worth checking out.