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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Symptom List Helps ID Ovarian Cancer

Researchers Say Awareness of 6 Symptoms Could Help Identify Women at Risk

Misdiagnosis Is Common

While other researchers are working to develop a more sensitive screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer, all agree that such a test is years away.

Ovarian cancer survivor Sherry Salway Black tells WebMD that greater awareness of symptoms is critical because patients who have early-stage disease are still routinely misdiagnosed.

"Many women end up seeing gastroenterologists who often diagnose irritable bowel," she says.

Black, who is executive director of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, was luckier than most patients. Her ovarian cancer was diagnosed early, but even she was initially told her symptoms were nothing to be concerned about.

"I was 48 when I was diagnosed, and I was told at first that my symptoms were probably related to menopause," she says. "[The symptoms] went away and then came back again, and I knew it wasn’t normal."

She says all women need to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer and their own specific risk factors. They also have to be vigilant about seeking an accurate diagnosis when they feel something is wrong.

If a pelvic examination, imaging test, or other test suggests ovarian cancer, it is time to see a specialist, Black says.

Women with late-stage ovarian cancer are surviving longer than ever because of treatment advances pioneered by gynecologic oncologists.

"We are seeing better outcomes in women treated by specialists," she says.

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