Ovarian Cancer A Silent Killer

June 27, 2011

We've all experienced these common complaints: nausea, constipation, feeling bloated. Did you know they can be signs of ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is sometimes called the disease that whispers because women often do not recognize symptoms until the disease is at an advanced stage. What's more, these symptoms are vague and can be associated with other problems, so cancer may not be suspected right away. But pay attention to your body. If you notice these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks, see your doctor:

  • Feeling bloated
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Urinating often
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Risk factors

The causes of most ovarian cancers are not known. However, experts do know a woman may be at higher risk for the disease if she:

  • Is older than age 50
  • Has a personal or family history of breast or colon cancer
  • Has never given birth

About 10 percent of ovarian cancer cases are due to genetics. Women who have a close female relative who had ovarian cancer are at greater risk. So are women with mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. These mutations, which are most common in Jewish women of Eastern European descent, also increase the risk for breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about your own ovarian cancer risk. You may want to undergo screening tests, genetic counseling or other measures.

See your primary care doctor or OB/GYN if you are experiencing symptoms. Your doctor can refer you to Henry Ford's nationally known gynecologic oncologists in the Downriver region.