As September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to shed light on the most important signs you should be aware of.
Cancer is a condition when cancerous cells invade and destroy specific parts of the body. As implied, ovarian cancer occurs in women’s ovaries.
There are two ovaries in the female reproductive system, one on either side of the uterus. Along with producing eggs, the ovaries also secrete the hormones progesterone and estrogen.
For years, ovarian cancer was considered a silent killer with few, if any, early symptoms.
The early symptoms that are detectable are bloating, cramping, and abdominal swelling. Since many conditions, like fluctuating hormones or digestive irritation, can cause these symptoms, sometimes they are overlooked or mistaken for something else 😥
Fortunately though, ovarian cancer may not be as discreet as we once thought! By knowing which symptoms you should be on the lookout for, you’ll be better equipped in understanding your symptoms if they do occur.
Early signs and symptoms 🚥
When ovarian cancer first develops, you might not notice anything different. But, some of the early signs and symptoms that can raise alarm bells 🚨may include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Feeling full quickly
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Back pain
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- A frequent need to urinate
When these symptoms occur more than 12 times per month over the span of less than 1 year, we recommend scheduling a checkup with your gynecologist.
Causes and risk factors 💣
While it is still unclear what specifically causes ovarian cancer, several factors have been identified that can increase the risk of this disease:
- Increased age range (Ovarian cancer can occur at any age, however, is most common in women ages 50 to 60 years)
- Inherited gene mutations
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy, especially with long-term use and in large doses
- Age when menstruation started and ended (Beginning menstruation at an early age or starting menopause at a later age, or both, increase the risk)
When to see a doctor 🏥
Many of these aforementioned symptoms may have less threatening causes so please don’t panic, or jump to any conclusions, if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms!
To have some peace of mind, schedule a doctor’s visit as it’s not possible to self-diagnose ovarian cancer at home. Ovarian cancer diagnosis requires a number of tests performed under the supervision of a professional.
We recommend visiting your gynecologist at least once a year for a routine checkup 🗓️. Even if you are experiencing symptoms or not, it’s always important to get a clean bill of health every now and then. In the meantime, keep track of how frequently your symptoms occur. If your symptoms seem to get progressively worse, go ahead and make that appointment, just to be safe.
Knowledge is power. Becoming more in tune with your body helps you prevent and/or detect any conditions sooner.