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10 Common Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer starts in a female’s ovaries, which are the organs that produce eggs for reproduction. According to the American Cancer Society, “Most of these tumors are benign (non-cancerous) and never spread beyond the ovary. Benign tumors can be treated by removing either the ovary or the part of the ovary that contains the tumor. Malignant (cancerous) or low malignant potential ovarian tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and can be fatal.”

Typically, symptoms do not present until the ovarian cancer has spread to your pelvis and abdomen. Therefore, it is often too late to treat and leads to death. If found early enough, ovarian cancer is treated through surgery and chemotherapy. Ovarian cancer is rare, with less than 200,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States.

Symptom 1: Fatigue

Are you exhausted? Any type of cancer can cause you to feel extreme fatigue. It is referred to as CRF, cancer-related fatigue.

In The Ovarian Cancer Circle, Virginia Garcia posted: “I was missing a lot of work. I was having some stomach issues, diarrhea two to three times a week. In addition, my fatigue level was at an all-time high for which I blamed to lack of sleep. Five months after my last infusion, I still experience fatigue, neuropathy, diarrhea and occasionally; body pain. Slowly, very slowly, I’m getting back to me.”

Symptom 2: Back Pain

Do you suffer from back pain? Is there a dull ache in your lower back and thighs?

Ovarian cancer causes pain in various areas of your body, including your back. 

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Symptom 3: Pelvic Pain

Do you experience pain daily and especially during sexual intercourse? Women tend to experience pain once the disease spreads beyond their ovaries. Pain in your abdomen and pelvic area may be due to ovarian cancer tumors growing between your hip bones or pelvis, and tummy or abdomen.

According to the Kaleidoscope of Hope – Ovarian Cancer Foundation, Carol Fagella shared her story: “My symptoms began with a lower groin pain on my right side that felt like ovulation. I had had an endometrial ablation four years prior, was no longer menstruating, and could not monitor any periodic distress. The pain persisted for several weeks but I chose to wait for my annual physical to inform the internist. Upon feeling my right side, my general practitioner felt a hardening of the abdomen and ordered an immediate CT scan…”

 

Symptom 4: Constipation

Do you suffer from constipation? Or diarrhea?

Ovarian cancer can cause changes in your bowel movements.

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Symptom 5: Menstrual Cycle

Do you have a change in your menstrual cycle? Do you miss or have irregular menstrual cycles? Ovarian cancer can affect your menstrual cycles, even causing bleeding after menopause.

According to OvarianCancerAwareness.org, one patient stated: “My menstrual cycle continued to be irregular and the pains were unbearable. A doctor from Columbia was assigned to the hospital at Ft. Riley, KS. He saw me in the ER, admitted me for a laparoscopy. A cyst on my right ovary had ruptured. A second cyst was suctioned. A biopsy revealed Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer.”

Symptom 6: Loss of Appetite/Weight Loss

With cancer, it is common to lose weight, due to the disease and the medications and procedures used to treat it. However, it is also common to gain weight with cancer, especially due to chemotherapy and tumor growth.

Also, you may experience a loss of appetite or feel fuller sooner than usual.

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Symptom 7: Nausea

Do you feel nauseated? If it does not go away, it can be because of ovarian cancer or the medications you take to manage it.

According to Dr. Benedict Benigno, ovarian cancer causes a "vague and fleeting nausea at first, leading to intermittent outright nausea and vomiting."

Symptom 8: Bloating

Feel bloated? But don’t know why because you don’t have your period and didn’t eat a big meal? Ovarian cancer can cause bloating.

According to a post on ehealthmedicine.com, one patient stated: “I was normal for about a month before my surgery for ovarian cancer. I suddenly felt bloating in my abdomen and felt like something moving around. My GP mistook it for gas and treated me for Gastritis. I developed a sharp pain near my diaphragm. I went to a gynecologist who immediately advised an ultrasound. I surgery to remove my ovaries, omentum and uterus. Will soon be starting chemo.”

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Symptom 9: Fluid in Abdomen

Does your abdomen feel like it is full of fluid? Can you feel a lump in your abdomen? Fluid in your abdomen can be related to ovarian cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, “Women with ovarian cancer can have a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. This is called ascites. It can be very uncomfortable but can be treated with a procedure called paracentesis. After the skin is numbed, a needle is used to withdraw the fluid, often several quarts, into a bottle.”

Symptom 10: Indigestion

Do you have frequent indigestion or gas? Do you burp or fart often? Is this indigestion somehow different than regular indigestion you have experienced in the past? It is easy to confuse normal indigestion with ovarian cancer.

According to a Cosmopolitan article one patient stated; “Like many 20-something women, I was suffering from IBS symptoms; I’d bloat, get an upset stomach and I had acid reflux. Unlike many young women, however, my IBS symptoms turned out to be something a lot more severe: ovarian cancer.”

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