Ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose as symptoms can often be mistaken for other less serious medical conditions such as IBS. There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. A pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer.
A lot of the symptoms are those which women experience from time to time as well. However if these symptoms persist for at least 2 weeks or more, then go see your doctor. Sometimes ovarian cancer can be detected with an ultrasound alone, and it can usually be diagnosed via an MRI and a tumour marker (Ca125) test.
There IS a common story with ovarian cancer symptoms, whatever they may be. Every woman I know affected by this disease presented to their GP with NEW and persistent symptoms, and had a gut feeling that something was wrong. We know our bodies better than anyone else, so if you feel that something is wrong you should persevere. Don’t be afraid to seek a second GP opinion if needed.
You can read more about symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer at Ovarian Cancer Australia.
Most common symptoms:
- Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
- Abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain
- Feeling full after eating a small amount
- Needing to urinate often or urgently
- Changes in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Excessive fatigue
- Lower back pain
- Indigestion or nausea
- Bleeding after menopause or in-between periods
- Pain during sex or bleeding after
The lead up to my diagnosis:
My new symptoms began in June 2016 in the form of atypical migraine like headaches, chronic sinusitis, and extreme fatigue, which I put down to a particularly stressful year. I had just commenced a new role at work, my mother in law had passed away, and I was running around after 2 toddlers whilst also moving house! During this time I felt like a hypochondriac as I had thoughts that I was dying. My GP was extremely diligent and sent me for an MRI to rule out a brain tumour. At the beginning of 2017, 6 months after my headaches started, I experienced abdominal pain and pain during intercourse and was off all meat, chocolate and wine, which I normally love! My GP sent me for abdominal and pelvic scans immediately, which led to a CT scan. At this point the cancer had already metastasised and I was stage 3C. I believe that the headaches signalled the commencement of my cancer growing.
Unfortunately I had no obvious abdominal symptoms until the disease was already advanced, which is a common story with ovarian cancer.