We all have those days. The days we go all out at our favorite ice cream place and our stomach painfully reminds us why we don’t eat a ton of dairy. Or those days when it’s “that time of the month” and our stomach is in knots or we seem to spend a lot more time in the bathroom. Those days aren’t fun, but they can be part of a normal, healthy life for women.
However, sometimes they aren’t. Each year, about 20,000 women in the U.S. receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer after they notice things like digestive issues, abdominal pain, frequent urges to pee that don’t go away.
This can be a scary reality but there are steps you can take to prevent your risk of ovarian and breast cancer. If you have the power to take your future health into your hands, why wouldn’t you?
The first step is to know your risk. Take 5 minutes to Assess Your Risk and receive your results with personalized prevention recommendations that you can implement today.
Early detection is also key– the earlier the stage, the easier it is to find successful treatment options. Ovarian cancer is no exception, but as many health providers will tell you, finding ovarian cancer in its early stages is extremely challenging. First of all, there are no regular screening tests for women (no, your Pap smear isn’t checking for ovarian cancer!). Secondly, since your ovaries are located pretty deep within your body, you often can’t physically feel any initial changes in their size or shape from developing tumors.
Because ovarian cancer is not as easily detected it is so important that you recognize the signs and symptoms and know your normal to catch it as early as possible.
So what are you looking for?
Primary symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Prolonged bloating
- Frequently needing to pee
- Having trouble eating or feeling full quickly
Secondary Symptoms include:
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Menstrual changes
- Pain during intercourse
These problems can be signs that something isn’t right. (Find out more about watching for these symptoms)
You may be thinking – that just sounds like a normal period! And you’re right, you may have some of these symptoms for a day or two around your period. However, when these symptoms don’t go away – you consistently have them for 2-3 weeks and they aren’t improving – you should check in with a healthcare provider.
Do these symptoms sound like your life for the past month or so? If so, don’t panic. Ovarian cancer is one of many conditions that could cause these problems. However, you still need to talk to your provider about these symptoms so they can run tests for ovarian cancer – especially if you have a family history of cancer (not just ovarian!) and/or a genetic mutation that could increase your risk.
While women without a family history or genetic mutations have about a 1.3% chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime, women with a family history of cancer or a genetic mutation have a much higher risk. Some genetic mutations can raise your risk of developing ovarian cancer to almost 50% over your lifetime. (Don’t know your family history? We got you!)
This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is a perfect time to take charge of your ovarian health, so you’ll be informed and ready to face any symptoms life may throw your way well before you start feeling them.
Take the first step to cancer prevention and early detection.
Find out your ovarian (and breast) cancer risk with Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk quiz and start living proactively today!