What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is extremely difficult to detect, especially
in its early stages. This is partly due to the fact that these two
small, almond-shaped organs are located deep within the abdominal
cavity, on each side of the uterus. Following are some of the persistent
non-specific symptoms or signs of ovarian cancer:
- unexplained change in bowel and/or bladder habits
- gastrointestinal upset such as gas, indigestion or nausea
- unexplained weight loss or gain
- pelvic and/or abdominal pain or discomfort
- pelvic and/or abdominal bloating or swelling
- a constant feeling of fullness
- abnormal or postmenopausal bleeding
Because these symptoms and potential signs of ovarian cancer are
vague or “silent,” only about 10 percent of ovarian
cancers are found in the early stages.
What are the statistics for ovarian cancer?
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately
24,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. The majority
of women, 75 percent, are diagnosed after the disease has spread
throughout the abdominal cavity and reached an advanced stage (stage
III or IV). Despite aggressive surgical intervention and new chemotherapeutic
regimens, the overall five-year survival rate for women with advanced
stage epithelial ovarian cancer has remained constant, over the
past 30 years, at approximately 15 percent. In contrast, those women
diagnosed with early stage (stage I) disease have an overall five-year
survival rate approaching 90 percent. Clearly, detection of early
ovarian cancer is the best way to improve survival.