Ovarian cancer occurs most often in women over 50; however, it can affect the younger generation too. Women most at risk for getting ovarian cancer are those who have already experienced menopause. While the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer after menopause are as limited as those found in younger women, some do exist. But these symptoms, such as bloating and abdominal pain, can be easily attributed to other conditions as well, making ovarian cancer diagnosis a difficult task.
Signs of Ovarian Cancer
Since a "sign" of any medical condition must be observable by others in some way to warrant that label, ovarian cancer has limited "signs," hence why it is known as the "silent killer." One sign--an enlargement of one (or both) of the ovaries--can sometimes be detected during a pelvic exam performed by a doctor. However, this is a rare occurrence, because the enlargement must be fairly big to be felt during an exam.
Enlargements noticed during exams might be due to a cyst rather than ovarian cancer. A transvaginal ultrasound test may only confirm that the mass is present, not whether it was due to a cyst or ovarian cancer.
The Sign of Awareness
Probably the most important sign of ovarian cancer is the one women detect themselves: the realization that something is not right. This is especially true with this disease, given its "silent killer" label.
When women begin to experience certain symptoms (i.e., bloating, abdominal pain, persistent gas or indigestion, constipation, or pain during intercourse) that they have not experienced before--and these symptoms are not relieved over time or after treatment--they may begin to wonder if something else is wrong and should seek medical attention.
Their concern, along with details of how they have made efforts to address the problem but with no successful outcome, can be a significant sign to their physician during their next physical exam that ovarian cancer may be the cause, especially if they are post-menopausal.
The symptoms experienced with ovarian cancer can mirror those experienced with so many other ailments, including minor ones. However, there is one key difference: ovarian cancer symptoms do not come and go; they generally remain constant over a significant period of time, even when treated. This, therefore, helps the medical community in their efforts to confirm or rule out ovarian cancer.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include bladder habit changes (especially more frequent urination or constipation); continued lack of energy or loss of appetite; pain in the pelvic area, especially during intercourse; an expanding waistline, contrary to the norm; bloating or fullness in the abdominal area; and continuous indigestion, nausea or gas.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a woman who has sought medical attention and been diagnosed with something other than ovarian cancer but whose treatment has not being effective should either seek another appointment with her health care professional or get a second opinion elsewhere.