Ovarian cancer is almost completely curable if caught in its earliest stages. Unfortunately, it has few early symptoms and there is no reliable screening test, making early diagnosis difficult. To help identify problems when they first start, women should talk with their physician if the following symptoms are persistent, even if they seem trivial:
- General abdominal discomfort or pain (gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, cramps)
- Nausea, diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling of fullness or abdominal swelling after a light meal
- Weight gain or loss with no known reason
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
- Pelvic pressure (a feeling that one needs to urinate or defecate all the time)
- Constant back or leg pain
A pelvic exam and an ultrasound can determine whether the ovaries require further evaluation. In addition to knowing the symptoms, two simple precautions can drastically increase the chance of early detection:
- Give a thorough medical history to your gynecologist. Disclose any personal and family history of breast, endometrial, or colon cancer, as well as any use of fertility drugs (these may put you at higher risk).
- Have an annual pelvic exam and routine sonograms.
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