Ovarian Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors (cont.)

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The majority of ovarian cancers are diagnosed late, after the cancers have spread. Only about 20% of women are diagnosed early, when the disease may be most curable. There is no definitive screening test for early ovarian cancer. Regular pelvic examinations, sometimes supplemented by ultrasound examinations or blood tests for cancer-related markers, have been routinely used for ovarian cancer screening, but none of these tests are specifically able to detect ovarian cancer. Traditionally, it was believed that ovarian cancer does not produce any characteristic symptoms until the tumor is widespread, and that early symptoms of ovarian cancer were not recognizable.

However, in June 2007, the American Cancer Society, along with other medical societies including the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, released a consensus statement about possible early symptoms of ovarian cancer. This statement was based on research suggesting that some of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer can, in fact, be recognized. In particular, possible early ovarian cancer symptoms include the following:

The researchers note that women who have these problems should see a gynecologist for cancer screening if these problems are new, if the symptoms are severe, and if they have been present continuously for over two to three weeks.

It is important for women to remember that these symptoms do not necessarily mean that a woman has ovarian cancer, as many other common and harmless conditions can produce similar symptoms. Moreover, other causes for these symptoms are far more common than ovarian cancer and, for example, include irritable bowel syndrome and urinary tract infection. Women may also experience some of these symptoms in the premenstrual phase of their monthly cycle.

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