Ovarian Cancer (cont.)
Andrew Green, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
What are ovarian cancer symptoms and signs?
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Screening tests are used to test a healthy population in an attempt to diagnose a disease at an early stage. Unfortunately, there are no good screening tests for ovarian cancer, despite extensive ongoing research. Imaging (ultrasound, X-rays, and CT scans), and blood tests should not be used as a screen, as they are inaccurate and lead many women to surgery who do not need it. Diagnosis is often suspected based on symptoms and physical exam, and these are followed by imaging. The signs and symptoms, when present, are very vague. These can include fatigue, getting full quickly (early satiety), abdominal swelling, clothes suddenly not fitting, leg swelling, changes in bowel habits, changes in bladder habits, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. As mentioned above, these symptoms can be very subtle and vague, as well as very common. This only makes diagnosing the disease that much more difficult. Some studies suggest that the average patient with ovarian cancer sees up to three different doctors prior to obtaining a definitive diagnosis. Often, it is the persistence of the patient that leads to a diagnosis. Borderline tumors can present with similar symptoms. In addition, they are often seen with very large masses in the ovary. Often these masses are large enough to cause bloating, abdominal distension, constipation, and changes in bladder habits.
In the more uncommon ovarian types (stromal and germ cell tumors), symptoms are similar. Sometimes, granulosa cell tumors can present with severe pain and blood in the belly from a ruptured tumor. These can often be confused with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, as they tend to be found in women of reproductive age.
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 9/24/2013
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