Around the world today we are celebrating… well, let’s say that again. We are calling it World Ovarian Cancer Day as an opportunity to spread the word on awareness of this revolting disease.
Why is it a tough one? Because you can’t go to your doctor and say, “Give me the test for it” (No, the PAP smear doesn’t check that one.)
What about symptoms? Sure there are some. But they can be vague, non-specific and mistakenly attributed to other causes (like menopause, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain) even by doctors. This disease is pretty rare (1 in 70 women, compared to breast cancer which is 1 in 9) so doctors can go their entire careers without seeing a single case.
Common symptoms include:
- Bloating – increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
- Eating – difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Pain – in pelvic or abdominal areas
- Urinary symptoms – urgency or frequency
Occasionally there can be other symptoms such as changes in bowel habits, extreme fatigue or unexplained weight loss. Just because you have the symptoms does not mean you have ovarian cancer.
However, if the symptoms are:
- Frequent – they usually happen more than 12 times a month
- Persistent – they have been present for more than 3 weeks
- New – they are not normal for you and may have started in the last year
…then it is important that you see your doctor.
What’s important is to pay attention to your body because the key to surviving is catching this nastiness early… it’s virtually curable if you get it at early stage. Unfortunately, 75% of women aren’t diagnosed until stage 3 or 4. By then, most of us won’t make it past 5 years.
Stay aware of the symptoms. If they persist, go the doctor and tell what you suspect. Diagnosis (or ruling out the disease) takes a combination of physical examinations, blood tests, transvaginal ultrasound, MRI or CT scan.
Look after yourself. Nobody is saying how much high stress has to do with ovarian cancer but I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to who have said, “Yes, I had a high stress job.” “I was a type A.” ” I was go go go all the time.”
Today I’m 4 years, 8 months from diagnosis of ovarian cancer stage 3b and for me, everyday is Ovarian Cancer Day.