Ovarian cancer has long been known as the "silent killer." Unlike other cancers, there is no simple screening test.

But now the Gynecological Cancer Foundation, the Society of Gynecologist Oncologists and the American Cancer Society have released a consensus statement that identifies a set of symptoms that may lead to earlier diagnoses and increased survival rates.

Early diagnosis is key: Currently, only 19 percent of ovarian cancer cases are discovered
before the cancer spreads outside the ovary, after which it becomes
much more deadly. Among women with breast cancer, 89 percent survive five years or more, while only 45 percent of all women with ovarian cancer survive that long after the diagnosis.

The new recommendations are expected to be officially released June 25. The New York Times has a story today, however, that outlines the symptoms that are thought to occur during the early stages:

The symptoms to watch out for are bloating,
pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and
feeling a frequent or urgent need to urinate. A woman who has any of
those problems nearly every day for more than two or three weeks is
advised to see a gynecologist, especially if the symptoms are new and
quite different from her usual state of health.

Doctors say they hope that the recommendations will make patients
and doctors aware of early symptoms, lead to earlier diagnosis and,
perhaps, save lives, or at least prolong survival.

But it is too soon to tell whether the new measures will work or
whether they will lead to a flood of diagnostic tests or even
unnecessary operations.

That last line is key, as it’s all to easy to get worked up over symptoms that may not be related.

"The majority of the time this won’t be ovarian cancer, but it’s
just something that should be considered," Dr. Barbara Goff, the
director of gynecologic oncology at the University of Washington in
Seattle and an author of several studies that helped identify the
relevant symptoms, told the Times. "We don’t want to scare people, but
we also want to arm people with the appropriate information," said Dr.
Goff.

Read the article or visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance for more information about the symptoms and when it’s appropriate to contact your doctor. Remember, when in doubt …

Christine

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