Pelvic exams, the CA125 blood test, and pelvic ultrasounds are three methods of diagnosing ovarian cancer in women with symptoms suggesting the disease. None of these tests is foolproof when used alone; when used together, however, they can be very helpful in diagnosing ovarian cancer in its earliest stages. In fact, CA125 levels are elevated in 50% of Stage 1 ovarian cancer patients.
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages. This is partly due to the fact that these two small, almond shaped organs are deep within the abdominal cavity, one on each side of the uterus. These are some of the potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
Upset stomach or heartburn
Pain during sex
Constipation or menstrual changes
If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, see your physician.
Persistence of Symptoms
When the symptoms are persistent, when they do not resolve with normal interventions (like diet change, exercise, laxatives, rest) it is imperative for a woman to see her doctor. Persistence of symptoms is key. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only around 19% of ovarian cancer is found in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form.
Have a comprehensive family history taken by a physician knowledgeable in the risks associated with ovarian cancer. 5% to 10% of ovarian cancer has a familial link.
Every woman should undergo a regular rectal and vaginal pelvic examination. If an irregularity of the ovary is found, alternatives to evaluation include transvaginal sonography and/or tumor markers. The most common tumor marker is a blood test called the CA-125.