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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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7 Clues to Ovarian Cancer

Researchers Find 7 Symptoms Linked With Ovarian Cancer, Dispelling ‘Silent Killer’ Reputation

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms and Screening

Women often use the term bloating for distension, Hamilton writes. But medical experts generally consider distension as a progressive increase in abdominal size; bloating is an intermittent increase and decrease.

Under current guidelines in the U.K., Hamilton notes in the paper, abdominal distension is not a symptom that warrants "urgent investigation."

In the U.S., bloating is one of the symptoms that is likely to persist in women with ovarian cancer compared to women in the general population, according to the American Cancer Society. If a woman complains of bloating, her doctor will likely do a thorough physical exam, and perhaps a CA-125 blood test, which measures a protein found in the blood of many women with ovarian cancer, or a transvaginal ultrasound.

Routine screening with CA-125 and transvaginal ultrasound isn't done in the general population, according to the ACS, nor is routine screening for ovarian cancer recommended by the American Cancer Society or other medical organizations. But the tests are often offered to women at high risk of ovarian cancer, such as those with a very strong family history of the disease.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms: Other Opinions

The study results add to several other studies also finding that ovarian cancer isn't as "silent" as experts thought, says Andrew Li, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. "I think this reinforces what a lot of other studies have shown, that there are symptoms of ovarian cancer, and that patients and physicians should be aware of them."

Although Hamilton's team found three symptoms to be present more than six months before diagnosis of ovarian cancer, Li says the clinical picture he encounters with his patients is typically different. ''Patients are in their usual state of health and in a three- or four-week period, they develop these symptoms -- mostly the three [pain, distension, and frequency]."

In an editorial accompanying the study, researcher Joan Austoker of the University of Oxford notes that the overall five-year survival rate from ovarian cancer is poor, about 30% to 40%. That increases to more than 70% for women diagnosed early, she notes, but currently just one-fifth of patients are diagnosed early.

The abdominal distension symptom, she concludes, warrants urgent attention.

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