Symptoms of ovarian cancer are more vague than those of other cancers and can often be confused with common illnesses. Signs include increased abdominal growth, bloating or abdominal distension, weight gain and feeling full quickly. Since these symptoms are commonly overlooked, it is important to keep track of how often you experience them and discuss what you are feeling with your primary care physician. When it comes to finding ovarian cancer, you are your best advocate.
Unlike breast cancer, there are no effective screening tools for ovarian cancer, resulting in lower survival rates because diagnosis usually occurs in later stages. That is why it is so important for women to discuss any symptoms they are experiencing or risk factors with their doctor. Risk factors include increasing age, family history of ovarian or breast cancer and/or a genetic predisposition to the disease. If your physician suspects ovarian cancer, they will most likely refer you to a gynecologist who will perform a physical examination and an ultrasound to look for abnormalities. If an enlarged ovary is discovered and signs of a cancerous mass are present, surgeons will remove the ovary and test for cancer.
If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, you may benefit by having a genetic counselor assess your risk of ovarian cancer. Share your results with your primary care physician or your OB/GYN so you can both watch for symptoms. Cone Health’s board-certified gynecologic oncologists allow women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and other gynecologic cancers to receive exceptional care and cancer treatment right here in the community—close to work, home and their support networks.
Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson is a gynecologic oncologist and for the past 20 years has been the medical director of the Gynecological Oncology Program at Cone Health Cancer Center. Dr. Clarke-Pearson is also a practicing physician and chairman of the UNC School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. He then completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology and his fellowship in gynecologic oncology at Duke University Medical Center.