Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that occurs in women. Cancer that begins in the ovaries is known as ovarian cancer. The biggest issue with ovarian cancer is that it usually goes undetected till it reaches a serious stage, i.e., it starts to spread within the abdomen and pelvis. Once cancer reaches this late stage, it becomes more difficult to treat and treatment options often fail, usually resulting in fatalities. Usually what happens is that women typically remain unaware of their symptoms till it’s too late.

Ovarian cancer makes its presence known through many signs and symptoms. You are more likely to experience these symptoms if cancer has already spread beyond the ovaries. However, this is not to say that early-stage ovarian cancer won't cause these symptoms.

Prolonged Indigestion? It could be Ovarian Cancer!

Prolonged Indigestion? It could be Ovarian Cancer!

So what should women look out for? And why should the common symptom of prolonged indigestion not be overlooked? For all you know, your prolonged indigestion could very well be a sign of ovarian cancer.

It can safely be said that symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer is a rare occurrence. However, advanced stage ovarian cancer causes several symptoms that generally get mistaken for other common and benign conditions. Some of these signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling bloated
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Feeling full very quickly while eating
  • Generalized discomfort in the pelvic region
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Changes in bowel movements such as constipation or feeling the need to have a bowel movement often
  • Postmenopausal bleeding
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal distension.

Rather than visit a doctor for having abdominal bloating on a regular basis, women start experimenting with changing diets and taking probiotics rather than looking at the underlying cause of the bloating.

Indigestion and Abdominal Bloating – Why You Should Not Ignore It

A recent study conducted by the Target Ovarian Cancer, a non-profit organization, in the United Kingdom, found that out of 1140 women interviewed, over 50% of women would rather consider changing their diets rather than visit a doctor if they are experiencing prolonged indigestion and abdominal bloating. Only 34% said that they will likely go to the doctor if they experienced such symptoms. What is worrying about these statistics is that in many cases, these women who are experiencing these symptoms are putting themselves at risk by overlooking these common symptoms of ovarian cancer.

According to Annwen Jones of Target Ovarian Cancer, persistent bloating, feeling full, stomach pain and a need to frequently urinate are the common symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Experts advise that if you are experiencing any such symptoms for a prolonged period of time, or even if you have had them on and off, it is important to realize that it is not normal and you must consult your doctor for the same.

Most women are opting to change their diet, cutting out gluten or dairy from their diets, and including increasing the consumption of probiotic yogurts. Many women who participated in the study also said that they would either start using over-the-counter medications to deal with indigestion or they would start exercising thinking that getting some exercise will get rid of these symptoms.

In fact, a separate survey showed that only 1 out of 5 women in the United Kingdom were actually able to identify that prolonged indigestion and bloating were a symptom of ovarian cancer.

It is, therefore, important that you learn the symptoms of ovarian cancer as an early diagnosis makes it much easier to treat cancer.

Why Ovarian Cancer is known as the 'Silent Killer'?

Most women are unaware that ovarian cancer is actually known as the 'silent killer' because it is not only difficult to detect at early stages, but it is frequently misdiagnosed as well. In fact, there are only around 20% of cases that actually get diagnosed in the early stages. The majority of ovarian cancer cases only get diagnosed when they have already reached an advanced stage, with cancer has spread to other organs as well, making it difficult to treat. One has to keep in mind that treatment is the most effective when given in the early stages of cancer. As cancer progresses, many treatments either stop working, are not effective or it takes a very long for cancer to start shrinking.

Ovarian cancer develops without any prior intimation and neither will you come to realize that you have cancer growing inside you if you do not pay attention to these small symptoms. Early symptoms don't appear in all the cases, but in cases where they are present, it is most often seen that these include abdominal-related issues such as pain, bloating, indigestion, and urinary tract issues.

Some of the other early symptoms of ovarian cancer can also include nausea, menstrual changes, rectal bleeding, and experiencing pain during sex, back pain, constipation, and fatigue.

Ovarian cancer is also one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions as doctors and patients both tend to notch it up to indigestion. Due to this, patients are not taken seriously enough and cancer continues to grow and spread. Often times, even doctors themselves simply attribute abdominal symptoms to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and start treatment for IBS. Antacids, increasing the consumption of fiber, and probiotics are generally what is prescribed in these cases where ovarian cancer goes undetected.

By the time these symptoms become difficult to live with and you finally undergo an ultrasound or some kind of imaging test to understand the underlying cause of the symptoms, ovarian cancer has already spread to the pelvis and become a large mass. It already progresses to a stage where it is much harder to treat.

Conclusion

If you already have a family history of ovarian cancer, or any type of BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 gene mutations, then it is necessary that you consult your doctor and ask them about how to lower your risk for developing ovarian cancer.

There are many screening tests and procedures available for detecting ovarian cancer, such as the CA-125 blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound (TVS). However, these methods still remain unspecific and may also provide false positive results. This leads to many unnecessary surgical procedures that an individual has to go through for no reason. Therefore, as of today, there are no recommended routine examinations for detecting ovarian cancer.

This is why it becomes even more necessary to not ignore these small symptoms of early ovarian cancer. Take control of your health today and keep your doctor in the loop about your overall health to avoid facing complications at a later stage.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 23, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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