Ovarian cancer is rare, however in women over 50 it is often a missed diagnosis that shares common symptoms with irritable bowel syndrome and bladder control. Education and awareness can help save lives.

Two thirds of women are diagnosed late, when the cancer is harder to treat, leaving one in seven women dead within 2 months of being diagnosed. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, 9 in 10 women will survive.

Is it IBS?

Irregular bowel movements, gas, pain and bloating are signs of irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is often related to stress, lack of fibre, microbiome dysbiosis, food sensitivities, medications, infection, and other environmental factors. It is when the abdominal bloating is new, consistent and persistent and appetite is reduced or lost, ovarian cancer needs to be ruled out.

Is it Overactive Urinary Bladder?

Urgency and frequency of urinary symptoms, and unremarkable urine samples should raise concern.  Yes, it could be diabetes, an overactive bladder, or interstitial cystitis; however, if these symptoms are new and persistent, urgency and frequency are also possible signs of ovarian cancer, and they need investigation.

Could it be Ovarian Cancer?

Persistent, new and frequent abdominal bloating, regardless of what is eaten, change in stools, extreme fatigue, feeling full quickly, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, or weight gain from fluid retention, frequent and urgent urination are all symptoms related to ovarian cancer.

There is no single test to diagnose ovarian cancer. During a pelvic exam, the physician feels the ovaries and uterus for size, shape, and consistency and that can be useful in finding some cancers early, but most early ovarian tumors are difficult or impossible to feel. And cervical screening does not evaluate ovarian health. CA-125 blood marker measures proteins that can be linked with ovarian cancer. Together with ultrasound and the combination of symptoms, CA-125 may be used for ovarian cancer screening. 

With the shared symptoms of other conditions and what one might just chalk up to “getting old”, this certainly can be quite confusing. Naturopathic medicine serves as primary medical care and naturopathic doctors can help treat symptoms of IBS, bladder frequency and aid in symptomatic and CA-125 screening for ovarian cancer. Ultrasound is reserved referral from your conventional medical doctor. Questions? drlaura@southendguelph.ca