Since all women undergo numerous bodily changes while ovulating during the years before and after menopause, it can be difficult to notice possible signs of ovarian cancer. However, the American Cancer Society urges all women to be proactive because close to 94% of those who discover these cancer symptoms at an early, localized stage may go on and live another five years or more beyond their initial diagnosis.
That data should help remind all women to discuss all symptoms of this cancer during regular visits with their doctors. It’s always best to rule out any form of cancer related to odd symptoms – rather than to wait so long that few treatments can still help you.Potential Signs of Ovarian Cancer That Should Never Be Ignored
The MD Anderson Center and other leading cancer diagnostic and treatment facilities urge women to question the presence of one or more of the following symptoms:
- Constant or persistent nausea or indigestion. Ask your doctor to run appropriate tests to see if another illness is present – or if these otherwise unexplainable symptoms might be warning you that this cancer is present;
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – or any discharge containing blood. This is rarely normal and must be carefully examined so that your specialist can rule out all forms of cancer;
- A bloated belly. Although menstruating women and those anywhere near menopause may think of bloating as a fairly normal problem – this may not be a wise assumption, especially when other symptoms noted in this list are present;
- Frequent bathroom breaks when you haven’t greatly increased your fluid intake. After you rule out a possible pregnancy, make sure your doctor clearly determines why you can no longer hold urine very long in your bladder;
- Definite pain in your abdominal or pelvic area. While menstrual cramping is often quite uncomfortable – it can be important to learn why you’re experiencing it if it’s interfering with your regular daily activities. While menstrual bleeding and menopause often cause discomfort – any debilitating pain must be properly diagnosed and treated. Unfortunately, the cancer can begin spreading long before any serious pain becomes noticeable;
- Constant fatigue. While it’s hard to get many women to take this seriously since daily life stressors make many people tired every day, no one should overlook major fatigue. Tell your doctor if you’re finding it harder and harder to handle your average day. A thorough work-up can help you first search for other possibilities -- including major depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and other illnesses. Once those have all been ruled out, you must consider whether the fatigue could be a sign of this disease;
- Unexplained weight loss, losing your appetite – or even feeling “full” most of the time when not eating regularly. Although most women often welcome the chance to drop a few pounds, it isn’t always normal to experience these changes – unless your doctor or dietician is helping you to lose some weight. Make sure your doctor determines why you’re experiencing these changes – and remain fully open to keeping a daily food diary.
Since obtaining a Pap Smear only reveals whether a woman may have cervical cancer, other tests are sometimes run when reviewing potential symptoms of this disease. Obviously, a physical or pelvic exam alone cannot conclusively determine whether a woman has cancer. Instead, doctors may sometimes screen women for ovarian cancer by running a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test.
- The transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS). In some cases, signs of ovarian cancer can appear during the performance of this test. The person handling it places an ultrasound wand into a woman’s vagina – and then moves it around to view the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Although the wand can help show whether any suspicious mass is present, it obviously cannot indicate if any mass found is cancerous. (Fortunately, most masses found this way are not cancerous);
- The CA-125 blood test. CA-125 is a blood protein that can be measured. While a woman already diagnosed with ovarian cancer is likely to have a higher level of this protein in her blood – such extra high levels can also be caused by numerous other conditions.
Given the limitations of both these tests, the American Cancer Society website notes that they are not recommended by any major professional or medical organizations, except perhaps when the woman has an inherited genetic syndrome involving ovarian cancer. However, even when someone has a potentially higher risk for this disease, there isn’t any conclusive proof that these types of screening tests can greatly help diagnose the condition.Do Doctors and Medical Researchers Know What Causes Ovarian Cancer?
A small number of women who have mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may be more likely to develop this cancer than others. Likewise, gene mutations linked to other family cancer syndromes may also play key roles in the development of this disease These include PTEN, STK11, and others discussed in greater detail on the American Cancer Society website.
As for other theories, some people believe that introducing male hormones into a woman’s vagina may play a role in the development of this disease. However, there are now more researchers who believe that there is a bigger connection between the number of times a woman experiences ovulation. Stated differently, the fewer times a woman ovulates, the lower her chances of developing this cancer. Being pregnant or on birth control pills decreases ovulation.
A recent development is that Talcum Powder made by Johnson & Johnson may have increased the chances of developing ovarian cancer as will be discussed further herein.
Additional research is required concerning clearer causes and symptoms of ovarian cancer, multiple gene mutations, and better ways to diagnose and treat this potentially deadly disease. However, it’s now known that a woman’s long-term prognosis with this disease may partially revolve around whether she has developed changes in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene or the HER2 oncogene.Treatments Available to Women Who Have Ovarian Cancer
At present, these include: surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy.
- Surgery. A woman’s age and current childbearing preferences play a key role in this realm – unless her cancer has already spread widely to other parts of her body. A specialist known as a gynecologic oncologist should perform the surgery since there are so many different types of this cancer. While surgically removing cancerous parts of the body is common – other procedures can still be used in early cancer stages to avoid such aggressive action;
- Chemotherapy. This refers to the use of systemic drugs to treat cancer throughout the body. Often, these cancers have already metastasized (or spread) far beyond a woman’s abdominal area. Although side effects have been minimized by some newer drugs, it’s still rather common for chemotherapy patients to experience: mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, hand and foot rashes, and loss of appetite;
- Targeted therapy. Unlike the more systemic approach of chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapy seeks to carefully single out or identify a patient’s cancer cells and then only attack those while minimizing harm to normal cells. This newer approach seeks to affect the inner workings of the cancerous cells;
- Hormone therapy. Physicians choosing this approach to treatment must first decide whether the patient suffers from epithelial ovarian cancer or ovarian stromal tumors. Doctors often choose between LHRH agonists, aromatase inhibitors, and other therapies based on the patient’s exact type of cancer and her ability to tolerate certain types of treatment side-effects;
- Radiation therapy. This approach uses high-energy X-rays to kill the cancer cells. However, this type of treatment is now less common in the United States, except perhaps in cases where the cancer has spread. External beam radiation therapy is another form of this treatment. Side effects can include fatigue, changes in the skin showing irritation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and vaginal irritation.
Many women are just now learning that their long-term use of talcum baby powder for feminine hygiene purposes may have significantly increased their chances of developing this cancer. Although this news is understandably frightening, courts are already starting to rule in favor of the women who are filing these lawsuits.
A woman from Modesto, California, is one of the plaintiffs recently awarded $68 million in both punitive and compensatory damages in this type of case. In her complaint, the woman specifically alleged that her use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower played a distinct role in her developing this cancer.
The woman was first diagnosed in 2012 with ovarian cancer. Since that time, her cancer has metastasized and progressed to a Stage IV, often fatal cancer.
If you are now battling this cancer and clearly recall using one or more Johnson & Johnson talc powders or products, you should contact your California ovarian cancer attorney immediately.
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento ovarian cancer lawyer. If you’re currently suffering from ovarian cancer, my firm stands ready to review your case and then file a lawsuit so we can recover for your medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and other losses. Please call me at 916.921.6400 for free, friendly advice anytime.
I am a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum that only offers memberships to this country’s highest-rated trial lawyers who continue to win million-dollar settlements and verdicts.
See the results I have obtained on my past verdicts and settlements page.