Ovarian cancer is the growth of cells that forms in the ovaries. The cells multiply quickly and can invade and destroy healthy body tissue. Ovarian cancer can be challenging to detect in its early stages because the ovaries are small and located deep within the abdomen. Also, it can often be difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer early because the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions.
For instance, the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are abdominal swelling and bloating, which can develop as an ovarian tumor grows and takes up more space within a woman’s abdominal cavity. Some people may attribute these symptoms to general weight gain. Excess weight is both a risk factor for ovarian cancer and a side effect of the treatment.
What Age Does Ovarian Cancer Occur?
The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases as you age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. But, in some cases, it can also affect women with a family history of the condition. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women 63 years of age or older.
What are the Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer?
Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause a few nonspecific symptoms. It should also be noted that these symptoms are often mistaken for more common benign conditions.
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or cramping. It is very common for tumors growing in the pelvis to cause pain in the lower abdomen. Many women mistake these stomach troubles for period cramps because they feel similar.
- Lack of appetite or feeling full too soon after eating. The same fluid buildup that may cause some ovarian cancer patients to feel bloated, may also result in a lack of appetite or feeling full too soon after eating. Indigestion or upset stomach and Nausea are also warning signs.
- An urge to urinate more frequently. An increased urge to urinate occurs when ovarian cancer cells have studded the outside of the bladder wall or when ascites in the pelvis compress the bladder, causing women to feel like they have to urinate more frequently.
- Unexplained exhaustion. An ovarian cancer patient may experience back pain when a tumor spreads in her abdomen or pelvis, directly irritating the tissue at the base of her spine or a tendency to accumulate fluid in the pelvis.
- Bloating or constipation. You may experience frequent heartburn or gas for months leading up to an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Increased abdominal girth or abdominal swelling is also a warning sign.
- Pain while having sex. Unexplained pain while having sexual intercourse can be a warning symptom of ovarian cancer.
- Menstrual changes. Changes in a woman’s period, such as heavier bleeding than normal or irregular bleeding can be a symptom of ovarian cancer.
- Weight loss. Sudden weight loss when you are not on a diet or have not changed your exercise habits can be a warning sign of ovarian cancer.
- Difficulty breathing. Late-stage ovarian cancer can bring on breathing troubles. Having a large tumor may restrict a patient’s ability to breathe as they press against the lungs.