Ovarian cancer is often regarded as a silent killer. Each year in Australia alone, almost 1300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, more than two-thirds of whom are diagnosed at an advanced stage, where the cancer has spread and is difficult to treat successfully (Cancer Australia, n.d). This is because ovarian cancer is hard to detect in its early stages and frequently does not result in symptoms until the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries.
It is vital that women are aware of the symptoms of this deadly disease, so they can detect the cancer early. The four most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain, pressure or discomfort (sometimes caused by a build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity;
- Sudden increase in abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating;
- Persistent urinary urgency or frequency; and
- Loss of appetite, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.
(Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, n.d).
The symptoms of ovarian cancer will vary depending on the stage of the cancer, being more pronounced as the disease progresses. They are generally subtle and vague and associated with less serious, benign (non-cancerous) conditions, and many women with early stage ovarian cancer experience no symptoms (Better Health Channel, 2012). Most ovarian cancer tumours are present for some time before they are diagnosed. Only 19% of ovarian cancers diagnosed when the disease is most responsive to treatment – before it has become metastatic (Ovarian Cancer Australia, 2010).
If you inexplicably and persistently experience any of the above symptoms almost daily for two or more weeks, you should contact a gynaecologist. Whilst the majority of women who experience these early symptoms do not have cancer, it is important that women seek medical advice if the symptoms persist as only a doctor can tell for sure. It is vital the women know the symptoms of ovarian cancer; it may be a quiet disease, but it is not silent.