What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Here’s what you need to know.

Action step 1:
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as you can.

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating
  • Feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or increased frequency
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Pain with sex
  • Constipation
  • Irregular bleeding

Action step 2:
At the doctor, explain your symptoms and share your concerns about ovarian cancer. Don’t take “it’s normal” as an answer if it’s not normal for you. Ask for a referral to a gynecologic oncologist.

Tests commonly used to determine a possibility of ovarian cancer are: a CT scan, transvaginal ultrasound, PET scan, MRI, and sometimes a CA-125 blood test.

However, a surgical biopsy is currently the only way to accurately diagnose ovarian cancer (we’re working on that).

Action step 3:
If your specialist suspects ovarian cancer, schedule surgery with a specialized gynecologic oncology surgeon — even if there isn’t one conveniently close to you.

Studies show that a patient’s chance of survival is significantly higher when a gynecologic oncologist performs their surgery and biopsy, rather than a general surgeon.

Recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer?

Here’s what you should do next.

Action step 1:
Take a deep breath. You’re in the right place, and you’ve got this.

Action step 2:
Get a second opinion. It may save your life. Look to specialized cancer institutions and focus on gynecologic oncologists that specialize in ovarian cancer.

Action step 3:
Ask your doctor to perform genetic testing on your tumor. Somatic tumor testing can pinpoint any genomic alterations that can help determine targeted therapies for treatment.

Action step 4:
Ask your doctor about enrolling in any available clinical trials. Patients enrolled in clinical trials can have a higher chance of survival than those who aren’t.

Action step 5:
Research and understand your type of cancer, and its recommended treatment protocol.

There are over 30 kinds of ovarian cancer, including low-grade serous and borderline, and each type requires a unique treatment plan.

Need chemotherapy and want to reduce hair loss? Look into cold capping during treatment.

Action step 6:
Find a support group or therapist. Many peer groups and therapists can focus on helping you cope with your cancer diagnosis, treatment and its side effects, infertility, menopause, and more.

Action step 7:
Create a plan for fertility-saving options, if you want. Many low-grade serous and borderline diagnoses require the surgical removal of both ovaries. But if one is spared, look into egg freezing in case treatment or recurrence causes infertility.

Action step 8:
Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes for the early onset of menopause.

Menopause can cause many symptoms like hot flashes, bone density loss (osteopenia and osteoporosis), night sweats, memory loss, muscle pain, weight gain, vaginal dryness, mood changes, high cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease.

Daily Calcium and Vitamin D supplements, weight bearing exercise, reduced alcohol and caffeine intake, and certain medications can help ease symptoms.

Action step 9:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are your best advocate. But you’re not alone. You are strong and capable, and can always reach out for additional advice.

What are borderline serous & low-grade serous ovarian cancers?

Here’s what you need to know.

Compared with high-grade serous ovarian cancer, low-grade serous ovarian cancer of the ovary or peritoneum (the lining of the pelvis and abdominal cavity) is a less frequent subtype of epithelial ovarian cancers, which are the most common types of ovarian cancer.

Surgery is a critical component of the initial treatment for low-grade ovarian cancer.

Adjuvant treatment options like chemotherapy, are uncommon due to low-grade and borderline’s resistance to traditional cancer therapies.

Targeted endocrine (hormone) therapy may be used to slow the growth of the tumors, but there is no standard of care for low-grade serous and borderline ovarian cancer.

Low-grade serous and borderline ovarian cancer tend to appear in younger women. The average age of diagnosis is 45.

Borderline ovarian cancer is associated with a better prognosis than other invasive cancers.

The risk of recurrence is at least 30% for advanced stage borderline ovarian cancer with invasive implants. Follow-up testing and monitoring with your doctor is critical for the remainder of your life.

Low-grade serous and borderline ovarian cancer have the same symptoms.

Get the resources you need.

Visit our blog for more information, including tips from survivors,
links to find a gynecologic oncologist near you, and so much more.

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