Ovarian cancer is not a silent killer. Recognizing the symptoms can help prevent misdiagnosis and late detection

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of the gynecological tumours. Less than 40% of people diagnosed with ovarian cancer are cured, and about 12,810 people in the US die from the disease each year.

For the past 25 years, scientists have tried to identify a screening test to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage, when the chances of cure are high. Unfortunately, many clinical trials with hundreds of thousands of participants have failed to identify an effective method for ovarian cancer screening. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force gave ovarian cancer screening a D grade in 2018, meaning it recommends against premature screening because it does not improve survival and for patients. may prove harmful.

Because no effective screening test currently exists, 70% of people with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages, when the chances of a cure are low. About 60% to 90% of people with stage one or two cancers that live around the ovaries and pelvis are disease free five years after diagnosis, compared with only 10% to 40% of people with stage three or four cancers. It has spread. stomach and beyond.

But even people with advanced disease are more likely to recover if complete surgical removal is still possible. This makes early diagnosis all the more important to overall survival.

Without screening tests, many physicians erroneously assume that early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is not possible. As a gynecological oncologist who treats hundreds of ovarian cancer patients each year, I was dismayed by these late diagnoses, and wondered whether better recognition of its symptoms could help physicians and patients identify ovarian cancer. can help to do so.

detectable symptoms

Ovarian cancer has historically been called the “silent killer” because doctors thought its symptoms were undetectable. Patients were often diagnosed so late that doctors felt nothing could be done.

But several studies over the past 20 years have shown that there are early warning signs of ovarian cancer. My colleagues and I conducted one of the earliest studies in 2000. Our survey of 1,700 people with ovarian cancer found that 95% of patients reported noticeable symptoms three to 12 months before diagnosis. The most common symptoms were pain in their pelvis and abdomen, increased frequency and urge to urinate, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and bloating or abdominal distension.

Importantly, people with both advanced and early-stage disease reported similar types of symptoms. Subsequent studies by many researchers confirm that even patients with early-stage ovarian cancer often experience symptoms.

Ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed.

We also found that providers often misdiagnose ovarian cancer as another condition. When we asked patients what their doctors attributed to their symptoms, 15% attributed their symptoms to irritable bowel disease, 12% to stress, 9% to gastritis, 6% to constipation, 6% to depression, and 4% to Was. some other reasons. Thirty percent were given treatment for a different condition. And 13% were told nothing was wrong.

A major issue is to differentiate the symptoms of ovarian cancer from those of common gastrointestinal and urological conditions. In another study, my team and I found that ovarian cancer patients have recent-onset symptoms and occur more than 50% of the month.

To facilitate early detection of ovarian cancer, my team and I compared the symptoms of patients with ovarian cancer with those of patients who did not have ovarian cancer. We developed an index that identifies six important symptoms of ovarian cancer: bloating, increased abdominal size, feeling full quickly, difficulty eating, pelvic pain and abdominal pain. Symptoms need to occur more than 12 times a month but last for less than a year.

Based on these criteria, our index was able to detect ovarian cancer in 60% to 85% of patients in our study, which is similar to the range obtained through clinical blood tests for ovarian cancer .

prevent ovarian cancer

While early detection is important, there are also prevention strategies that can help reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Inform your doctor if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, who may recommend genetic testing to fully determine your risk, or prophylactic surgery to prevent the development of cancer .

Oral contraceptives, tubal ligation (or surgery to close the fallopian tubes), pregnancy and breastfeeding all reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Finally, up to 70% of ovarian cancers can arise from the fallopian tubes. Removal of the fallopian tubes may be another option at the time of another surgery to help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. This should be done only if you do not plan to become pregnant in the future.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.Conversation

quite ovarian cancer is not a silent killer. Recognizing the symptoms can help reduce misdiagnosis and late detection (2022, April 26).

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