Symptoms Identified : Ovarian Cancer

Symptoms Associated With Ovarian Cancer May Allow Earlier Diagnosis

Even in the early stages of ovarian cancer, women experience symptoms that could point to the need for diagnostic testing, according to the results of interviews among ovarian cancer patients and control subjects in New York City.

A research team headed by Dr. Sara H. Olson, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, interviewed 37 women with stage I or II ovarian cancer, 118 with stage III or IV, and 13 with incomplete staging. Also included in their study, which is published in the August issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, were 251 community controls.

The most common symptom among women with ovarian cancer unusual bloating, fullness, and pressure in the abdomen or pelvis was reported by 71% of patients and 9% of control subjects. This discomfort was much more likely to be constant in patients, though of shorter duration, compared with control subjects, in whom these sensations tended to be intermittent.

Other symptoms that were significantly more common among the patients were abdominal or lower back pain; lack of energy; and frequent urination, urgency or burning, the investigators report. Symptoms reported by up to 21% of patients included constipation, lack of appetite, diarrhea and nausea. Seven women also mentioned pain in the side or ribs. Patients reported a mean of 3.0 symptoms versus 0.8 among controls.

"Women with early stage cancer reported longer duration for nearly all symptoms, indicating that cancer diagnosed at later stages is a more aggressive entity," Dr. Olson's group writes.

"If a woman presents with these symptoms, the physician should take the complaints seriously and possibly do exploratory studies to rule out ovarian cancer," Dr. Olson told Reuters Health. "Ultrasound, CAT scan, and CA 125 are the standard tests."

Obstet Gynecol 2001;98:212-217.

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) Jul 31 2001

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