Each year, thousands of women across the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. One of the greatest challenges of ovarian cancer is that it can go undetected for far too long, making it harder to treat if not caught soon enough.
However, when caught early, ovarian cancer is treatable with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or other treatment options. Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer and what to watch for is essential for women, especially those age 50 and older.
What are ovarian cancer symptoms?
Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer can easily be confused with symptoms of other illnesses. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your body and any early warning signs. Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing the following symptoms so they can help you determine what’s going on and how best to treat it. Remember, the sooner you catch ovarian cancer, the greater the chance of making a full recovery.
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Discomfort around the pelvic area
- Abnormal weight loss or quickly feeling full when eating
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- Frequent need to urinate
Who is at risk for ovarian cancer?
Some women carry a greater risk of ovarian cancer based on their genetics and personal health history. If you fall into any of the following categories, talk with your doctor about how to best maintain your reproductive health and watch for any early warning signs.
- Women ages 50 to 60 carry greater risk for ovarian cancer, but it can occur for women at any age.
- Those with a family history of ovarian cancer have increased risk.
- If your menstruation began at an earlier age or if you started menopause at a later age, these can be signs of a higher chance of the disease.
- Inherited gene mutations of breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) are also signs of increased risk for ovarian cancer.
- If you’ve had estrogen hormone replacement therapy, especially over a long time, it can lead to a higher chance of getting cancer.
As with many cancers, there’s no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer from occurring. However, you can take steps to minimize risk. It starts with knowing your health history, paying attention to your body’s changes, and talking with your physician early about your risk factors and what you can do.