A Q&A on Ovarian Cancer with Llyern Bartholomew, CRNP
Q: Isn’t Ovarian Cancer called the “silent killer” because it has no significant symptoms?
That’s a bad misnomer that we need to discard. Ovarian cancer clearly has symptoms; they are just more subtle in the early stages so it’s important that a woman listens to and knows her body. Ovarian cancer is the number one killer of all the reproductive-organ cancers so we need more education in terms of early warning signs.
Q: So what symptoms should women take note of?
The five most common symptoms are:
- abdominal bloating or swelling
- quickly feeling full while eating
- changing bowel or bladder habits, particularly the need to urinate more frequently
- discomfort in the pelvis area or low back
- weight gain or loss
It’s not unusual to have one or two of these symptoms occur occasionally. But, if you have two or more of these symptoms daily for more than 2 weeks, it’s time to call your doctor.
Q: How do doctors diagnose Ovarian Cancer?
The first step is a pelvic exam. Then, your doctor may order a transvaginal sonogram or an ultrasound of your abdomen and pelvis. We can also use a blood test that detects a protein identified with cancerous cells. In some cases, a tissue biopsy and study of fluid from the ovaries will be recommended.
As with all cancers, earlier detection provides more treatment options and a higher cure rate, so please share this information with all the women in your life!