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7 Clues to Ovarian Cancer

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

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.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms: Advice

If a woman has abdominal distension, Hamilton suggests asking the doctor for a thorough examination, a transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for CA 125.

"The scan is very accurate, but CA 125 somewhat less so, in that the blood test misses some cancers," he says.

An estimated 21,550 women in the U.S. will learn they have ovarian cancer in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society. About 14,600 are expected to die from the disease.

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