Ovarian cancer – the challenges of early detection

ovarian cancer detection

Ovarian cancer affects approximately 7,495 women each year according to statistics from Cancer Research. Like any form of cancer, early detection is key to successfully treating the disease.

The trouble is the early symptoms of ovarian cancer can point to a range of non-serious issues. This, alongside how quickly the symptoms can appear, makes diagnosing the condition difficult.

Tennis legend, Chris Evert, has recently revealed her battle with ovarian cancer and is hoping to raise awareness of early detection. Her cancer was caught in Stage 1, giving her an excellent prognosis for recovery. After receiving chemotherapy and undergoing a hysterectomy, there is now a 80% chance that the cancer won’t reoccur.

In today’s post, we look at the challenges associated with early ovarian cancer detection, and the options women have in order to try and catch the disease as early as possible.

What are the early symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Early symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, abdominal swelling, and cramping. It can also cause changes in appetite, urinary symptoms, and feeling full quickly when eating.

In some cases, patients don’t present any symptoms at all. If you do have any of these early symptoms and they occur more than 12 times in any one month, it’s a warning sign that you may have cancer.

Initially, the symptoms are mild, but they will grow in severity the longer they are left untreated. More advanced signs of ovarian cancer include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Ascites
  • Constipation

Again, even in advanced ovarian cancer cases, patients may not always present symptoms.

Why is ovarian cancer hard to detect in its early stages?

There are a few reasons why ovarian cancer is hard to detect in its early stages. The main one is that the symptoms can link to a range of other, less serious conditions. Some patients also don’t present with any symptoms at all until the cancer has advanced. Screening tests used for cervical cancer, such as a Pap test or HPV (human papillomavirus) test aren’t effective tests for ovarian cancer.

Being aware of the risk factors of ovarian cancer can help you to seek out an earlier diagnosis. In general, those who are aged 60 or over, or who have a family history of reproductive cancer, are most at risk.

If you have any of the early or advanced symptoms, it’s important to get checked over by a doctor. Even if you don’t have any of the increased risk factors, speaking to your doctor will at the very least ease your mind. They will conduct a pelvic exam and may recommend other tests to make a diagnosis. After this, if your tests suggest that you have ovarian cancer, you will be referred to a gynecologic oncologist that is specially trained in treating cancers of the female reproductive system.

What options do you have for early ovarian cancer detection?

Seeking an early diagnosis can be tricky, but there are options available. On Health has recently partnered with Datar Cancer Genetics Limited to offer early detection blood tests. Known as Trucheck, the simple blood test is able to detect up to 70 different types of cancer. By catching ovarian cancer early, there is a high chance of survival.

To find out more about this non-invasive screening method, contact Dr Sahir today.