Ovarian and cervical cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most are vague or similar to other conditions. However, there are a few things that should prompt you to see your gynecologist right away.
They can mean many things besides cancer, but they should definitely be checked out, says Mariam AlHilli, MD, ob/gyn.
- Postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
In most cases, doctors identify benign causes of postmenopausal bleeding. However, this type of bleeding is associated with endometrial cancer. Postmenopausal bleeding is the first symptom in over 90% of women with endometrial cancer. Any abnormal bleeding or postmenopausal bleeding should be evaluated. It can also be a sign of cervical cancer.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding before menopause
Any bleeding that is out of your normal range should raise a red flag for endometrial or cervical cancer.
“Heavy bleeding or irregular bleeding compared to a normal period is a concern in some cases and should be investigated,” said Dr. AlHilli. “Also, see a doctor if you experience bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods.”
- Pelvic pain
Persistent abdominal pain and discomfort may be a symptom of ovarian cancer. Gas, indigestion, pressure, bloating, and cramping can all indicate ovarian cancer.
- Sudden weight loss/gain
There are many reasons why women with ovarian cancer may gain weight. Tumor size is a factor, as tumors are often not diagnosed until they are relatively large. Sometimes fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity.
- Loss of appetite
Women with ovarian cancer sometimes lose their appetite. If you suddenly lose more than 10 pounds without changing your diet or increasing your exercise, see your doctor. Most of the time, the lack of desire has to do with how cancer affects your metabolism.
Vague symptoms make diagnosis difficult
“In general, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often difficult to diagnose,” says Dr. AlHilli.
For example, vague abdominal pain, discomfort in the upper abdomen, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, or constipation may indicate a problem. Most of the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases.
Your doctor will perform several tests to determine if your symptoms are benign or cancerous.