Debunking Myths About Ovarian Cancer
While it's true that most often ovarian cancer is diagnosed after the disease has spread, the widely-held view that there are no early symptoms in not true. This and other misconceptions about ovarian cancer are covered in the latest issue of the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. Here, the myths and the realities.
Myth: There are no early symptoms.
Fact: Many women with ovarian cancer do have early warning signs. However, common symptoms -- abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating, urinary urgency and pelvic discomfort or pain -- mimic those of many other conditions.
Furthermore: It's not unusual for women with ovarian cancer to be diagnosed first with a digestive or bladder disorder. With these concerns, symptoms tend to come and go, occur in certain situations or be related to certain foods. With ovarian cancer, symptoms are likely to occur daily for weeks or months on end. Symptomatic women who have been treated for other health conditions and have not improved should schedule a follow-up visit with their doctor or seek a second opinion.
Myth: Pap tests can detect ovarian cancer.
Fact: Pap smears are designed to detect cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer.
Furthermore: Generally, when ovarian cancer is suspected, a physician will perform a pelvic exam to check for masses or growths on the ovaries. Other diagnostic tests include a transvaginal ultrasound, which can produce detailed images of the ovaries and other reproductive organs and a blood test to determine if the protein CA 125 is elevated, as it often is in women with ovarian cancer.