September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and the writers over at GladderBladder decided to share a post about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and the number one symptom that may help women discover ovarian cancer sooner.
Did you know that a Pap smear doesn’t actually check for all kinds of pelvic cancer? Many women don’t know that Pap smears won’t diagnose ovarian cancer and that because of this, they need to take a more active attitude in looking for the symptoms themselves. When their ovarian cancer is detected early, 92% of affected women survive. Detected late though, this cancer kills 55% of women within 5 years.
Hearing that there is one more health concern to be vigilant against might sound overwhelming. Common symptoms of the early stages of ovarian cancer are often vague and similar to common symptoms of less serious conditions like PMS or menopause. The most common of these include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, feeling full more quickly than usual, and urinary symptoms like frequency, urgency and incontinence. Most women associate these symptoms with more common and less threatening conditions and are likely to ignore them all together. If women went to their doctors every time they experienced one of these symptoms – well let’s just say no one wants to go to the OB/GYN that often.
That isn’t to say these symptoms should be ignored. If you experience these symptoms more than 12 times in one month and they are new for you, you should see your doctor. But in the busy lives of today’s women, it can be easy to push through and ignore those symptoms assuming that they are the result of something else for much longer than a month.
New research however, has discovered that one of these symptoms usually presents itself slightly differently when it is a result of ovarian cancer. And this slight difference is often what leads to earlier diagnoses and therefore saves lives.
Urinary incontinence (UI), frequency and urgency can be caused by a long list of other conditions like infections or weak pelvic floor muscles. The chances of a woman experiencing urinary incontinence increase dramatically in the years after she goes through menopause, the same years a woman is most likely to be affected by ovarian cancer. Because of this, most women think nothing when they suddenly begin experiencing urinary incontinence.
This can make it very difficult to recognize UI as a symptom of ovarian cancer, if you don’t know what to look for. Usually though UI comes on slowly over a period of two to three years. In cases of ovarian cancer, many women had symptoms of urinary incontinence that came on over a period of two or three weeks. That is where the difference lies. When ovarian cancer causes UI, it usually comes on much more suddenly as it is likely caused by the tumor pressing on the bladder rather than by a gradual weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that are responsible for bladder control.
Urinary incontinence always has a cause. It is not a condition in and of itself, but rather a symptom of one of a number of other conditions, many of which are relatively harmless or easily treated. A few of the causes are more serious though, including ovarian cancer, and so urinary incontinence should always be checked into to make sure it isn’t the first sign of a serious condition. If you and your doctor can’t determine a specific cause for new or suddenly worsened UI, ovarian cancer should be considered.
So what does all of this mean? The good news is that to look out for ovarian cancer there isn’t a new test or self-exam that you have to add to your busy schedule. You simply have to pay attention to your body. Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be vague, but you know your body best and you know when something feels wrong. So if something changes that doesn’t have an obvious cause, don’t panic, but tell you doctor and don’t back down until you get an answer.
For more information on all of the symptoms of ovarian cancer visit the following website: http://www.ovariancancer.org/about/symptoms-of-ovarian-cancer-detection/.
And for more information about urinary incontinence, its causes and solutions go to http://www.gladderbladder.com.