As women, we have a seemingly endless list of body parts to care for and monitor. We should be doing monthly breast exams. We should track our periods. (Are they healthy? Are they regular?) And we should always be on the lookout for subtle signs of ovarian cancer.
Unlike other female health concerns, ovarian cancer doesn’t have a ton of obvious symptoms. Or, at least few that show up until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. That’s why it’s known quite scarily as the “silent killer.” There are subtle symptoms you might notice, however, if you know what to look for.
Symptoms often include simple things bloating, changes in bowel habits, and nausea. Since these issues happen to pretty much every woman over the course of an average day, and are often nothing to worry about, the key is to pay attention to how long these feelings last. “I give a list of these symptoms to all of my patients and remind them that if they experience any of them for longer than five to seven days, to be evaluated by their doctor,” says gynecologic oncologist Barbara M. Buttin, MD, of Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois.
When caught early, ovarian cancer is treatable. “Since cure rates for ovarian cancer are over 90 percent when it is caught early, it is crucial to listen to your body,” says gynecologic oncologist and Steve Vasilev, MD. “There are early symptoms which, if you recognize them, may save your life.” Read on for some of them, and don’t ever be afraid to ask your doctor for an exam.