Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Finding Ovarian Cancer Early?

I just heard that the American Cancer Society and other organizations have announced that there are early symptoms of ovarian cancer - bloating and other stomach issues. I’ve read this before. What’s new?

Answer (Published 7/19/2007)

You're correct. The symptoms cancer experts have listed as possible signs of ovarian cancer have been known for some time. I discussed them on my Web site in 2005. What's new is that there is finally agreement that if women were more aware of the possible significance of these symptoms, some cases of ovarian cancer could be caught and treated sooner, lives would be saved, and survival prolonged. More than 22,000 women are diagnosed with this disease in the United States every year. For the record, here are the symptoms:

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • A frequent, urgent need to urinate

Of course, these symptoms are very common, so bear in mind that they need attention only when they're new and unusual, occur almost daily, and persist for more than two or three weeks. If so, women should see their gynecologists for pelvic and rectal examinations (the best way to physically check the size of ovaries), along with an ultrasound examination if needed. A blood test for the CA-125 antigen may also be useful.

We don't yet know what this new, more aggressive approach will yield. Testing can create anxiety and expense, and in most cases, will not turn up cancer. It may even lead to unnecessary surgery. Nevertheless, I believe that publicizing the possible early symptoms of ovarian cancer will make doctors take them more seriously.

The fact is that women complaining of these symptoms have often gotten the medical brush-off, only to discover weeks or months later that they had ovarian cancer. In a survey of more than 1,700 women published in the June 9, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 36 percent of patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer initially were misdiagnosed with disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome or depression and 12 percent were told it was all in their heads.

We have to do much better than that. A definitive screening test to find ovarian cancer early is urgently needed, but so far, none is available. Until we have one, the new awareness campaign for women and physicians should prove useful.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here