Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Signs & Symptoms

Right now I want to turn attention to just the facts ma’am–what all women need to know about potential symptoms of ovarian cancer and what exactly you should be asking of your doctor if you experience them.

Ovarian cancer has been called the “Silent Killer” because it often isn’t discovered until it has spread to other parts of the abdomen; as you know from the facts from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund posted in the O foods post, once ovarian cancer reaches later stages, the survival rate beyond five years drops to just 45%. When detected and treated early on, though, the five-year survival rate from ovarian cancer is greater than 92%.

But ovarian cancer isn’t silent! As many ovarian cancer awareness organizations say, “It whispers–so listen!”

Here are some common signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Vague but persistent and unexplained gastrointestinal complaints;
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling and pain; bloating and/or feeling of fullness;
  • Unexplained change in bowel habits;
  • Frequency and/or urgency of urination;
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss;
  • New and unexplained abnormal postmenopausal vaginal bleeding.

If these symptoms are sudden and persist for more than 2 or 3 weeks, consult your gynecologist. A full pelvic exam, including the rectovaginal component, is the best screening method for ovarian cancer, and another test is a transvaginal ultrasound. Be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms so she knows exactly what she should be looking for.

Ovarian cancer risk factors include:

  • Peri- or postmenopause;
  • Uninterrupted ovulation (no pregnancies and no prior use of oral contraceptives);
  • Family or personal history of breast/ovarian cancer;
  • Presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations.

The following may aid in prevention:

  • Use of oral contraceptives for 5+ years;
  • Multiple pregnancies/breastfeeding;
  • Removal of ovaries or tubal ligation–these procedures may reduce but not eliminate risk.

For a handy guide to the signs and symptoms, risk factors, and prevention of ovarian cancer, print out the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund’s tent card (from which the above facts come). Better yet, print out a stack and hand them out to all the women in your life!

And here are some more ideas on what you can do for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Tomorrow, another O recipe!

8 Beans of Wisdom to “Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Signs & Symptoms”
  1. Thank you Michelle for this very informative post. It’s better to ask a doctor about these symptoms and be wrong than to ignore them.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..J. Hud & Punk?! I have some questions about this, the Emmys and Italia’s Next Top Model.

    Absolutely! When the survival rate is so high when ovarian cancer is found early, it’s definitely best to speak up if you’re experiencing any potential symptoms.

  2. Hi lovely,
    I regretfully missed being a part of your recent post on ‘O Food’ – I just got married and things have been rather hectic this end :)
    However I do have a post that is very relevant to your ovarian cancer awareness & food : it is based on the French doctor
    Servan-Schreiber’s recent book ‘Anticancer’, where as a cancer survivor he speaks about the idea of food / diet as a way to
    prevent & protect the body against developing cancerous cells. Two foods that are listed in his “Increase consumption” list are
    cauliflower & the spice Turmeric. As such I came up with a recipe that combines the two.

    Hope you are well, and look forward to reading through your latest adventure – like the list of ‘you know you are in Italy when…”.
    Too true what you say. It reminds me a little of life in Provence – my parents have hilarious stories.

    Pls drop by to say hi
    xxx
    PS any chance you have a good gnocchi recipe??

    Auguri! And you still have time for O Foods…it ends 30 September :) I’ll be over soon….

  3. Here is the link to the post: TUMERIC & CAULIFLOWER CURRY
    http://asweetpea.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/turmeric-cauliflower-currey/

    Erika of SWEET PEA Blog’s last blog post..CARROT & PEAR SOUP

    Great, thanks Erika!

  4. 09.23.2008

    Thanks for this important information!

    Wow, all sorts of contests going on now. Just crossing my fingers now and waiting. And repeating my mantra…..Pick me, pick me, pick me, pick me…….. :)

    My Mélange’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday – Best Travel Blogs

  5. 09.24.2008

    Michelle, thank you so much for posting this. I don’t know if you remember what I went through last year with this, but it really hit home for me. I had a large ovarian cyst and it was malignant. Thankfully, it was at stage 1. Caught it in time. My main symptoms were bloating/fullness and I felt something liquidy on palpitation. My OB/GYN and Oncologist have been following me for a year now and I am thrilled to report that I remain cancer free :) So again, thank you so much for posting this. My remaining ovary and fallopian tube thank you too.

    Piccola’s last blog post..Twilight

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and thank goodness you went and got those symptoms checked! Further proof that it pays to be careful. *So* happy to hear all continues to go well :)

  6. Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
    11.05.2008

    Academy Award Winning Actress Kathy Bates Opens Up to OCNA about her Experience with Ovarian Cancer

    A few weeks ago, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) had the opportunity to sit down with Academy Award winning actress Kathy Bates to listen as she told the tale — for the first time publicly — of her personal fight with ovarian cancer. The interview was very personal and in-depth and shares insights about how she was diagnosed with the disease. Additionally, Ms. Bates filmed a 30-second TV Public Service Announcement (PSA) about ovarian cancer and its symptoms, which launched in NYC Taxi Cabs during September, National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and is running on TV networks nationwide.

    “OCNA recognizes the personal strength it took Kathy to talk publicly about her run-in with cancer,” says Karen Orloff Kaplan, Chief Executive Officer of OCNA. “We appreciate her willingness to share her story and be an advocate for the organization in its mission to educate women across the country about ovarian cancer.”

    To view the OCNA Kathy Bates 5-minute interview clip and 30-second TV PSA, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/ovariancancerorg

    “As an ovarian cancer survivor, I have decided to join forces with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance by sharing my story and helping educate women about one of the deadliest cancers affecting women today.” — Kathy Bates

    Raising awareness about ovarian cancer on a national and local level is essential because diagnosing the disease is difficult. The number of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in its early stages is so small that the survival rates continue to be low. In more than 30 years since the War on Cancer was declared, ovarian cancer mortality rates have not significantly improved. About 22,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008 and about 15,000 women will die from the disease.

    If interested in learning more about the Kathy Bates interview and PSA or would like copies to share with your community, please contact Faryl Greller, Director of Communications & Marketing, at OCNA by phone at 202.331.1332, ext. 307 or email at fgreller@ovariancancer.org.

    Thank you for posting this!

  1. [...] is why it’s so important for women to know the dangers of ovarian cancer as well as the symptoms a... bleedingespresso.com/2009/09/teal-toes-contest-for-ovarian-cancer-awareness-month.html

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