Having a good understanding of your body is the key to detecting early signs of ovarian cancer. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, please book an appointment to see your doctor.
- Abdominal bloating
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Back, abdominal or pelvic pain
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Menstrual irregularities
- Pain during intercourse
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Causes of ovarian cancer
Some factors that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer include:
- Age (risk increases for women over 50)
- Changes in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Early onset of periods (before 12 years) and late menopause
- Women who have not had children or had their first child after the age of 35
- Using oestrogen only hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment
Tests for ovarian cancer
There are several tests or scans for detecting ovarian cancer and finding cysts and tumours. They include:
- Physical examination – Your doctor will check your abdomen for any lumps and do an internal vaginal examination.
- Blood tests – To check for a common tumour marker for ovarian cancer, CA125.
- Pelvic ultrasound – A pelvic ultrasound uses echoes from soundwaves to create a picture of your ovaries and uterus.
- CT scan – A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-rays to take images of the inside of your body to check for cancer and to see if it has spread.
- PET scan – A PET (positron emission tomography) scan highlights abnormal tissues in the body.
- Colonoscopy – A colonoscopy, which is a bowel examination to ensure that symptoms are not caused by a bowel problem.
- Biopsy – Taking a tissue sample is the only way to confirm a cancer diagnosis
A positive diagnosis
If you have ovarian cancer, you may feel shocked, upset, anxious or confused. These are normal responses. It may be helpful to talk about your treatment options with your doctor, family and friends. Seek as much information as you feel you need. It is up to you how involved you want to be in making decisions about your treatment. But it’s important to know, there have been many advances in the treatment of ovarian cancer over the years. The Lions Medical Research Fund (based at Spring Hill, Queensland) has been leading the way through research funding and helping to discover medical breakthroughs that have changed lives and made a real difference to women in Australia and around the world.