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 habit 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.