How is ovarian cancer usually detected, and what are the symptoms?
Ovarian cancer is commonly thought to be a silent killer or the cancer that whispers. This is because early stage ovarian cancers have almost none or very minimal symptoms. Small ovarian tumors often have an absence of symptoms and are usually discovered incidentally during investigations for other conditions.
In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, only about 20 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage. Typically, this is because ovarian cancer symptoms either aren’t apparent in the early stages of the disease or they mimic common stomach and digestive issues that are often mistaken for minor ailments.
Common symptoms may include:
• Abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea
• Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner
• Pressure in the pelvis or lower back
• A more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation
• Changes in bowel movements
• Increased abdominal girth
• Tiredness or low energy
• Changes in menstruation
• Dyspareunia (pain during intercourse)
Screening tests using blood or pelvic ultrasound don’t reliably catch ovarian cancer early so most women diagnosed have cancer.
Clinical examination, and the results of blood levels of tumor markers i.e. CA-125 and imaging studies like CT or MRI scan.
The best imaging test is probably a transvaginal ultrasound of the ovaries because the ovaries lie next to the top of the vaginal and a vaginal probe usually gives a clear picture even when ovarian masses are small.