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Why should ovarian cancer be detected early?

Ovarian cancer is considered a "silent killer" because in most cases it cannot be detected early. It often doesn't show clear symptoms or can't be diagnosed until the disease has already spread and is hard to treat.

Unfortunately, about three-quarters of women with ovarian cancer will have an advanced stage (stage III or IV) when the cancer is diagnosed. That means the cancerous cells have spread beyond the ovary, often through the abdominal cavity and possibly into the lymph nodes, liver or lungs. Presently less than 20% of women have their ovarian cancers detected when the cancer is still confined to the ovary (Stage I).

Despite advances in surgical techniques and new biologic-based chemotherapy, the survival rates of women with ovarian cancer remain poor. Women who are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease have five-year survival rates that range from 0% to 45%. However, women diagnosed with early stage disease (Stages I to II) require less radical operations, have much less surgical morbidity, may not require chemotherapy and have five-year survival rates of about 90%. 
Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
Although it is not in the top 10, ovarian cancer is responsible for more deaths in women than other reproductive system cancers. It is also one of the most feared cancers because it often is not detected until the disease has spread elsewhere in the body (metastasized). However, seeing the doctor for subtle warning signs, including unusual or persistent abdominal pain or bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary frequency or urgency, can sometimes catch the disease while it is still curable.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.