Every woman MUST know, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer and it will not be detected in your GYN exam. You must know the common early symptoms, act quickly if these symptoms persist.
Bloating - unusual and uncomfortable
Pelvic or abdominal pain - persistent and increasing intensity
Trouble eating or feeling full quickly or persistent upset stomach or heartburn
Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often - continuous over 2 to 3 weeks
Persistent unusual lower back pain
Significant menstrual changes
You will likely be misdiagnosed, be persistent! You must ask your doctor to prove ovarian cancer is not the cause of your symptom(s).
If these symptoms occur they can be initially vague and will increase over time.
If one or more of these symptoms persist daily for more than 2-3 weeks, ask your gynecologist for a combination pelvic/rectal exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and CA-125 blood test. Be very persistent, early detection dramatically increases survival rate/time.
Download the Hope for Heather Symptom Diary - track your symptom(s) over 2-3 weeks and take the diary with you to discuss with your doctor!
Ovarian cancer is a relatively rare cancer - yet it is the most deadly GYN cancer! Early diagnosis, when treatment is more effective, is critical.
The path to an ovarian cancer diagnosis is often full of uncertainty and misconceptions. Below are some examples of the common topics all women should be aware of.
1. Patients do not recognize the daily occurrence and increasing intensity of the symptoms, as dangerous
2. Patients do not recognize the importance of discussing these symptom(s) with their doctor.
3. For an early ovarian cancer diagnosis the patient has a critical role to start the conversation and remain proactive until ovarian cancer is eliminated as a potential cause. Patients often delay making an appointment because the symptoms seem so benign and vague. Mothers are usually the family caregiver. They focus on the health of other family members and dismiss their symptom(s).
“My doctor said my insurance would not cover genetic testing”
4. The PAP test does not detect ovarian cancer it is used to detect cervical cancer
5. Patients believe the annual exam will uncover all potential dangerous conditions/diseases. This is not true for an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
6. There is no reliable screening test a doctor can order as part of your general annual exam. Some insurances will not cover common diagnostic testing until the doctor can document elevated risk.
7. Ovarian cancer is most often misdiagnosed because it is a relatively rare cancer and the symptoms are vague. These vague symptoms are also common symptoms of other much more common conditions/diseases.
8. When the patient consistently complain of ongoing symptoms, doctors typically refer the patient to colorectal or urology specialists to eliminate more common conditions/diseases related to these symptoms.
9. The good news: vague symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions/diseases. Yet, if the eventual diagnosis is ovarian cancer, early diagnosis is critical for survival of more than 5 years.
10. A women's survival may depend on the level of proactive follow up appointments and second opinions. Listen to your body and insist on a decisive diagnosis until ovarian cancer is diagnosed or eliminated as a potential cause. Be bold ask your doctor(s) to prove these symptoms are not ovarian cancer.
11. At a recent national conference, 350 survivors were present, from the stage the question was floated: “Please stand if you were initially misdiagnosed” all except a few survivors stood up. Misdiagnosis and resulting advancement of the disease, is one of the key reasons most women are diagnosed at stage 3 or 4; when the disease is difficult to treat. “Without a reliable test, misdiagnosis will result.”
1.) Every patient must be persistent and seek a second opinion or request their GYN doctor perform a transvaginal ultrasound and CA-125 blood test to help eliminate ovarian cancer as the cause. “Prove to me I do not have Ovarian Cancer” should be part of the discussion if a patent has an elevated risk for the disease.
2.) A friend or family member insisting/encouraging persistent follow up until ovarian cancer is eliminated as a possible diagnosis, has saved numerous lives. Talk to your friends about your symptoms. Find one that can be a care partner.
3.) Listen to your body - know the symptoms - know your family history - act promptly if your risk is elevated due to family history of: breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, or peritoneal cancers, or BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
4.) Download a symptom diary, track your symptoms over three weeks, take the diary to your GYN appointment to show that the symptoms are persistent and potentially dangerous.
Early Diagnosis is critical: Only 20% of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in stage 1 and 2, when the 5-year survival rate is 65%, but nearly 80% are diagnosed in the later stages when the 5-year survival rate plummets to 29%
Facts From The
This fact sheet about ovarian cancer is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Inside Knowledge: About Gynecologic Cancer campaign.
The campaign helps women get the facts about gynecologic cancer,providing important "inside knowledge" about
their bodies and health.