Finding it hard to breathe
Breathing difficulties may be caused by any number of medical problems, including asthma, bronchitis, panic attacks and heart disease. Some conditions affect the lungs directly, such as asthma while other conditions may cause bloating which presses on the diaphragm, causing discomfort when breathing.
There are some medical conditions that impact the ovaries and breathing is affected as a result. One of these conditions is an ovarian cyst. Another is called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which may be developed during fertility treatments. The ovaries may fill up with fluid which can spill over into the abdomen, causing cramping and shortness of breath.
When ovarian cancer spreads, it causes fluid to build up in the abdomen and irritates the lining. The collected fluid may then put pressure on the diaphragm. Symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath may be experienced as a result of pressing on the diaphragm… A visit to the doctor and undergoing some tests is the only way of determining whether a condition in the ovaries such as ovarian cancer is causing shortness of breath.
One patient with ovarian cancer says that she couldn’t walk from her car to the front door of her office building without breathing heavily. She had great difficulty climbing a flight of stairs, having to stop and catch her breath constantly. It wasn’t long before she found herself in an emergency room because her breathing was so labored and she was eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Lower back pain
As a tumor grows, it’s possible for it to push backward into the sacrum and cause lower back pain. This pain in the back may spread to the whole pelvic area, increase over time and may be severe enough to make it difficult to focus on normal daily activities. The pain may even extend down into the leg in some cases.
Lower back pain is a very common problem, experienced by countless people. You may experience it simply because you are having a heavy period or because you have strained some muscles while exercising. It could also be indicative of something more serious such as degenerative disc disease or osteoporosis. However, when lower back pain is accompanied by the other symptoms mentioned in this article, you need to consider the possibility that it may be due to ovarian cancer.
When Jillian, 57, experienced unbearable pain in her back while having dinner with friends, she knew something was seriously wrong with her. This pain was unlike any other lower back pain she had ever experienced before. She went to the doctor but he didn’t consider it to be a serious problem and gave her some medication.
Jillian’s intuition kept telling her that all was not well and this made her keep pushing for answers when the medication did not help. Her doctor eventually sent her for a CAT scan which showed a tumor on her ovary and further tests confirmed it. The doctor diagnosed her with stage three ovarian cancer and she had to undergo a radical hysterectomy as well as chemotherapy.
Changes in bowel habits
Changes in bowel habits may be due to many conditions and diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis. However, they could also indicate the presence of ovarian cancer. When a tumor grows and can start putting pressure on the bowel. This leads to a change in bowel habits with patients experiencing both constipation and diarrhea.
Constipation or diarrhea usually go away in a day or two if they are due to something temporary like food poisoning. Some people even tend to ignore such symptoms when they persist for longer, thinking that they have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Doctors are often likely to diagnose IBS when they hear about these symptoms. Patients over 50 who have been diagnosed for over a year with IBS, need to ask their doctors to consider cancer testing as IBS does not usually present itself for the first time at this age.
Cynthia was one patient who was diagnosed with IBS after experienced bloating and an upset stomach. She cut out wheat, dairy and tried many other things but nothing seemed to help. She would find that certain foods just went straight through her and her bloating became permanent. She went back to her doctor many times but he did not change his diagnosis. It was only when she developed severe pain and was referred for an ultrasound that a large tumor was discovered.
When cysts are present on the ovaries, this can cause pain during intercourse. It’s not unusual to have cysts on the ovaries and intercourse can cause them to leak due to the pressure placed on them. These cysts are usually benign.
The larger the cysts, the more likely they are to leak and if a woman is past her child-bearing years, these ovarian cysts are more worrying because they are more likely to indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.
Women who have advanced ovarian cancer often experience pain during intercourse, usually felt in the pelvis or on the left or right side of the pelvis. This symptom is usually only reported by women in the late stages of the disease.
As cancer spreads to other tissues, new capillaries are formed. These capillaries often break easily and bleeding results. If you ever notice postmenopausal vaginal bleeding or spotting, it’s a red flag and you need to take action.
Many times infections are to blame for a thick, foul-smelling vaginal discharge. However, a heavy discharge may be an indication of something more serious.
Thickening, areas of color change, and lumps, bumps or sores may also be noticed in the vaginal area when a patient is suffering from ovarian cancer.
Fatigue is often one of the most commonly reported symptoms of all types of cancer. Of course, fatigue is not just due to cancer and may be experienced with many less serious conditions too. Ordinarily, when you feel tired, all you may need is a little rest to recover. However, fatigue that stops you from going about your normal activities every day or from working may point to ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer affects your whole body, including your digestive and excretory system. It’s no wonder that it causes constant tiredness. If you feel like sleeping constantly without having changed your daily activities, it may indicate an underlying problem such as some type of cancer.
Cancer results in a reduction in the number of red blood cells. This causes anemia, which in turn leads to fatigue because your whole body is receiving less oxygen.
Some additional tips
- If ovarian cancer is caught in the early stages, there is a higher survival rate because the disease responds better to treatment. If it is diagnosed later, the survival rate is much lower.
- To address the issue of late or missed diagnoses, Target Ovarian Cancer and Macmillan Cancer Support brought women suffering from the disease and GPs together to get some ideas on how this could be addressed. Some of the following tips may help women who are worried about ovarian cancer.
- The symptoms that are particularly significant are bloating, pain in the abdomen, feeling full quickly, having difficulty eating and needing to urinate frequently or urgently. Take note of these symptoms especially if they are new, don’t go away and happen more than 12 times a month.
- You know your own body. If you feel that something is wrong, make an appointment and talk to your GP about your symptoms. Don’t put it off.
- Book a double appointment if necessary so you can fully address your problems.
- Help your GP as much as possible by writing down what you want to discuss. If you are worried about ovarian cancer, mention it to your GP.
- Keep a symptom diary which can be useful for you to see any patterns but also helps when you see your GP.
- If family or friends notice your symptoms or pick up that you are feeling unwell, don’t just dismiss their concerns.
- If all the investigations and tests are negative but the symptoms continue to persist, you need to persist too and go back to your GP. If GPs ask you to come back if your symptoms don’t improve, they usually mean it.
A normal pap smear test will not pick up ovarian cancer. It only tests for cervical cancer. If you are worried about ovarian cancer, your doctor will need to perform other tests.