Ovarian Cancer - Symptoms

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What are ovarian cancer symptoms and signs?

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.

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Comment from: Momof41982, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: April 14

I am a 31 year old mother of 4. For the last year I have been in and out of my doctor's office with issues; kidney infections, bladder issues, and spotting and bleeding unrelated to my period. I went in 6 days ago and sat down and talked to my doctor. I"m always bloated. I have horrible gas and indigestion that never goes away. I"ve started having pain and a heavy feeling on the lower left side of my abdomen, and constipation for no reason. I have little to no appetite, and even when I do sit down to eat, I can"t finish my plate of food without feeling sick. My energy level is nonexistent. I struggle to get dressed and care for my family and house. He checked my abdomen and found a large lump. I"ve now gone for blood work and am waiting an ultrasound and other tests. He thinks its ovarian cancer. My maternal grandmother passed away from this when she 51 years old. And my 42 year old aunt (my mom's baby sister) passed away last year from ovarian cancer as well. Things seem to be happening very fast, and there really isn"t anyone around to talk to about it. My husband is terrified and I feel like talking to him makes it harder for him. It"s a lonely feeling going through this without someone to talk to about it.

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Published: May 28

I had ovarian cancer eight years ago and had a hysterectomy, appendectomy, and omentumectomy, followed by chemotherapy. My initial symptoms were very strange, firstly with altered taste and smell. I was uanable to eat because everything tasted so vile and altered. I lost 8 stone and slowly deteriorated over several weeks. I ended up practically bedridden by weakness. Many tests for stomach bugs were all futile. I eventually got so weak I told my GP I thought I was dying. He palpated my abdomen and found a large mass. Within two weeks, I was in the hospital and feeling much better. The cancer was encapsulated in a very large football-size cyst, which was removed successfully. Six months of chemo followed, with regular nonevasive check-ups. It is all just a memory now.

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