Symptoms Warn of Ovarian Cancer
Symptoms + Blood Test Can Detect Early Ovarian Cancers
WebMD News Archive
Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms to Look For continued...
So what are these warning signs? Andersen says there are three basic
Bloating or increased abdominal size
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Eating difficulty or feeling full too quickly
Normal women experience all of these symptoms from time to time. But if any
of these symptoms started recently -- within the last year -- and if it's
struck nearly every day for several weeks, it may signal ovarian cancer.
Indeed, only 2% of women report recent, frequent onset of these symptoms.
"This isn't something that's been going on since a woman was 18," Andersen
says. "This is something new happening to a woman's body."
Women identified as high risk by symptom index or CA125 testing would likely
undergo transvaginal ultrasound to look for abnormal growths on their
ovaries. Such growths are not uncommon, and the ultrasound test itself is not
an appropriate test for ovarian cancer except in women with family histories or
genetic backgrounds that put them at especially high risk.
"But if ultrasound is used in the group of women already selected because of
symptoms or CA125 or both, then we might identify which women are the right
ones to go to surgery," Andersen says. "We want to use transvaginal ultrasound
to identify the false-positives among women who did report symptoms, so those
who don't have ovarian cancer would not go to surgery."
Unfortunately, there's only one sure way for doctors to know if a woman has
ovarian cancer: surgery.
"It is not trivial to open up the abdomen and check," Smith says.
That's why there's an intense effort under way to find a reliable way to
detect cancer of the ovaries. Until that day comes, the symptoms index plus
CA125 screening may be the best way to identify women who may have ovarian
"Even with this specific pattern of symptoms, most women who have them
probably don't have ovarian cancer -- just as most women who find a lump in
their breast don't have breast cancer," Andersen says.
"It is time to get it checked out, but it is still not likely to be ovarian
Andersen, Goff, and colleagues report their findings in the Aug. 1 issue of
the journal Cancer.