13 Ovarian Cancer Warning Signs Every Woman Should Never Ignore

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 21,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and although it’s rare, it’s also the deadliest of all female reproductive cancers.

13 Ovarian Cancer Warning Signs Every Woman Should Never Ignore

Unlike breast, uterine, and cervical cancers which have screenings and can be detected early, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed before they’re advanced.

The good news is that if ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated early, 94 percent of women will live five years or more. Another recent study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology also found that up to a third of women will survive at least 10 years.

The disease that whispers

“In years past we used to call ovarian cancer the silent killer but it’s really not completely silent, at least in some patients,” said Dr. Edward Tanner, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

Ovarian cancer is now dubbed the “disease that whispers” because although the symptoms are vague and can mimic symptoms of other conditions or diseases, most women will report that they noticed them.

In fact, research shows that women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have new symptoms crop up in recent months. They also tend to occur frequently, every day or every other day and at least 12 times a month, and are more severe.

The most common signs of ovarian cancer include:

• Bloating or a swollen abdomen
• Increased abdominal size
• Urinary frequency, urgency or difficulty
• Problems eating, such as feeling full quickly after a meal
• Constipation, diarrhea
• Nausea
• Pelvic pain or pressure
• Pain anywhere in the abdomen
• Vaginal bleeding
• Back pain
• Painful sex
• Weight loss
• Changes in menstruation

The other problem with ovarian cancer is that it can develop quickly, even in between visits to the OB-GYN. Nevertheless, all women should have a yearly well woman visit and pelvic exam.

“As an oncologist, I do see patients that have ovarian cancer diagnosed on an annual visit where it’s caught early, perhaps several months earlier than it would have been caught if the patient hadn’t had an annual exam,” Tanner said.