When caught early, warning signs of ovarian cancer are sometimes treatable. Which is why it’s especially important to be your own healthcare advocate every step of the way. Doctors can administer physicals and run tests to assess your health, but only you know what unusual symptoms you’re experiencing on a regular basis. So if you feel like something’s not right, it’s a good idea to get it checked out. With that in mind, here some early warning signs of ovarian cancer. Often called a “silent killer,” this type of cancer has a few symptoms that could be mistaken for other conditions.
It’s hard to ignore the feeling of being bloated. It can easily happen after a big, salty meal of course, but if you’re chronically bloated for no apparent reason, then something may be wrong. Try changing your eating habits to see if you’re simply eating too much or too fast. Eliminate fatty foods from your diet and try to eat small bites very slowly. If these changes don’t affect your feelings of bloat over a number of weeks, it may be something more serious you’re dealing with. Ovarian cancer is one possibility, as is a physical obstruction or impaired muscle function.
2. Abdominal or pelvic pain
Abdominal or pelvic pain is another symptom that’s hard to overlook, but it could be a whole host of problems that are causing the discomfort. Many women often describe a feeling of pelvic heaviness when they have ovarian cancer. If you’re over 50 and experiencing this type of pain, it’s best to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
3. Urgent or frequent urination
If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know just how distracting the urge to go can be. The constant need to use the bathroom, combined with a distinct urgency, can be another indication of ovarian cancer. Other possibilities include infection or vaginitis, so be sure to ask your gynecologist what’s going on. Just be sure to rule out any changes in your drinking habits first.
4. Difficulty eating or quick to feeling full
This is another digestive issue that might be hard to pinpoint. It could be related to a change in eating habits or it could be something else unrelated to cancer. In fact, the majority of women who experience this symptom will not have ovarian cancer. Still, if you’re noticing a dramatic difference and suspect something’s amiss, you will feel better having yourself checked out.
Unfortunately, fatigue has almost countless causes and can be fairly common. Whether it’s ovarian cancer that’s making you feel run-down or merely something diet- or sleep-related, you won’t know until you get a proper diagnosis. If your fatigue makes it difficult to get through the day, ask your doctor to rule out other conditions like anemia, thyroid issues, diabetes, and heart disease. You might also want to look at your mental health as depression can be at play.
Any changes in your toilet habits can be cause for concern, or it can be nothing. This is why it’s important to regulate your diet so that you’re comparing apples to apples, so to speak, when assessing your bowels. And while constipation is one symptom associated with ovarian cancer, some patients experience diarrhea.
7. Indigestion and heartburn
Yet another collection of general symptoms, indigestion, and heartburn may be more than just annoying digestive issues. Pay close attention to these if they persist and don’t go away.
8. Back pain
If you’re having back pain for no known reason you may be experiencing one of the relatively later early warning signs of ovarian cancer. Again, it is extremely unlikely that cancer is the culprit, but pain without reason that doesn’t go away is always something to investigate.
9. Menstrual irregularity
Many women with ovarian cancer are in the midst of or have already gone through menopause, so menstrual irregularity may be difficult, if not impossible, to spot. That being said, younger women with abnormal menstrual cycles are at increased risk for ovarian cancer, so that is something to keep in mind.
10. Pain or discomfort during sex
As perhaps expected, ovarian cancer is associated with pain or discomfort during sex. You should always mention this kind of pain to your partner and your doctor without embarrassment. If you’re worried, ask your gynecologist to screen for cancer, especially if the symptoms have been lingering for more than three weeks.