Ovarian cancer may be known as the "silent cancer" but it is not entirely Silent! It manifests in many early symptoms. It may only "whisper" but it is not "silent".
Nearly 89% of all diagnosed women experience symptoms even at early stages, yet we often dismiss them. And worse, too many women have been diagnosed after their doctors ignored them for years. But each of us has the power to take control over our own health.
Please be aware that as a patient, you have the right to copies of everything in your medical file! Blood tests, annual physicals, lab tests, mammogram results, etc. Everything.
In my own case, as I look back, I see many symptoms that I should have recognized if only I had been knowledgeable! And my doc (a female!) should have recognized them, too. In fairness to her, however, I realize that I did not emphasize these symptoms enough!
- Fatigue (I thought I was just getting older)
- Bloating abdomen (I thought my body was just changing shape due to age. Ovarian cancer causes fluid buildup in the abdominal area, hence the bloating abdomen.)
- I had an unexplained bout of iron deficiency anemia. A one-a-day vitamin with iron over a month's time took care of it. But yes, this can be a symptom of cancer in the body.
- Frequent need to urinate. Before leaving the house to go anywhere I would make a "preventive" trip to the bathroom. During the night I had to get up 3-4 times for that bathroom trip. Again, I thought it was age or due to a partial hysterectomy many years prior.
- Pelvic or abdominal pains. In my case I had a vague and uncomfortable sensation under the edge of the bottom right rib. It was uncomfy enough that I could not lie on my side to sleep. It bothered me only at night or when lying down. Some women suffer much pain before being diagnosed. Others may notice only mild annoying discomfort.
- Constipation or diarrhea. I did not have these symptoms. (Frankly, I've always dealt with constipation issues...mostly because I did not eat right.)
- Trouble eating or feeling full too quickly... I did not have this problem.
- High testosterone level. (This was brought to my attention after I wrote the original post. A rare type of ovarian tumor can cause a very high testosterone level. Yes, women have testosterone. Symptons, besides high testosterone level, would include hirsutism, or excessive hair on the face or chest.)
- Unexplained iron deficiency anemia...As I think back, I had an unexplained anemia about 7 months prior to diagnosis. I looked it up online, and yes, this can be a symptom. Somehow the growing cancer and resultant growing blood vessels can cause some type of anemia. Mine went away after taking one-a-day vitamins with iron. But it was, in actuality, another symptom of the cancer.
- Unexplained itching of the very top of my scalp. I've added this one, too, since my original post. Again, as I think back, prior to my diagnosis I noticed that the top of my scalp, the crown and not the sides, became itchy...but only as I was brushing my hair. Any other time I did not notice it. But once I began brushing, my scalp wanted me to continue brushing vigorously to allay the itch. This itching disappeared when I commenced my first series of chemo. Then several months later, when I relapsed, the itching appeared again. And again, with the new chemo, it disappeared.
When symptoms occur that are unusual for you, or when they are present daily and last for weeks, you should see a doctor, preferably a gynecologist or a gynecological oncologist. When ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, the chance for a cure is enhanced greatly!! Better to be safe than sorry.
No single test can detect ovarian cancer. But symptoms should lead to various tests and all combined together should give your doctor a clear picture of your problem.
Ovarian cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death among women and kills more women than all the other gyn-cancers combined. There is no reliable test....so it is up to YOU to know your body and be aware of unexplained changes. And if your doctor pooh-poohs you, ask for a second opinion.