This month, we’re stressing the importance of taking every possible step to combat one of the deadliest of women’s cancers: ovarian cancer. What makes recognizing the signs of ovarian cancer particularly challenging is that in its early stages, it rarely reveals symptoms.
Yet even in its advanced stages, the symptoms of ovarian cancer don’t always raise red flags. In fact, some are so nonspecific, they are associated with common benign conditions such as constipation or irritable bowel problems.
Stay alert to the signs of ovarian cancer
Although the signs can be difficult to recognize, research suggests there are four key symptoms:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary urgency or frequency
Other symptoms include:
- Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
Who is at risk for ovarian cancer?
From family history to health history, here are some key risk factors to keep in mind:
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Personal history of cancer
- Women aged 55 and older
- Women who have never been pregnant
- Women receiving menopausal hormone replacement therapy
Ovarian cancer stages and treatment
There are four main stages of ovarian cancer:
- Stage I: Cancer is contained within the ovary or ovaries
- Stage II: Cancer is in one or both of the ovaries, but has spread to additional organs in pelvic area such as the bladder, colon, rectum or uterus
- Stage III: Cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to the lining of the abdomen and/or the lymph nodes
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread from one or both ovaries to organs such as the liver or lungs, or in the fluid surrounding the lungs
Treatment for ovarian cancer involves surgery — the extent of which depends on the stage of the cancer, your age, your general health and other factors.
In addition to surgical procedures, there are a host of oncology treatments that may be recommended singularly or in combination to attack cancer. Many people are eligible for clinical trials, which are carefully controlled research studies that provide access to promising new treatments, drugs or therapies.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of ovarian cancer, or feel you may be at risk, contact the caring, dedicated physicians at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center. With four locations across Southeastern North Carolina, we’ve provided leading edge cancer care through rapid testing and results, advanced therapies, and hematology for more than 30 years.