Maybe Ovarian Cancer is Not So Silent?

Teal Ribbon

Obstetrics & Gynecology published in February two studies that showed more than 70% of ovarian cancer patients showed symptoms prior to being diagnosed, as opposed to the common belief that ovarian cancer is a silent disease.


One of the studies performed a retrospective chart review of 419 patients with high-risk early-stage epithelial ovarian cancer. The results showed 72% of the patients had one or more symptoms and 28% were asymptomatic but had a mass found on examination. Among the symptomatic patients, 31% presented pelvic pain and 26% presented fullness or increased girth. Additionally, 13% of patients presented vaginal bleeding, 10% presented urinary problems, and 5% presented GI symptoms. Age, disease stage, or histologic type did not seem to make a difference in the presentation of symptoms. 


These results complement a second study’s results that prove the perception of ovarian cancer being a silent disease is inaccurate and it’s not just advanced-stage patients who present associated symptoms. The clinical surveys conducted showed that over 90% of women with early-stage ovarian cancer had reported symptoms before being diagnosed.


It has become clear that women need to be more aware of these symptoms that they shouldn’t ignore, to avoid delays in diagnosis since women with early-stage disease have higher survival rates than women who were diagnosed with advanced-stage disease.


We encourage our patients to be mindful of their family history and any ovarian cancer symptoms they might present, and seek professional assistance as soon as possible.


Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • Age (peaks in the eighth decade)
  • Women who have never had children
  • Women who have had breast cancer or have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
    Inherited genetic mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch Syndrome
  • Obesity: Excess body fat as measured by BMI (body mass index), including during the teen years

Symptoms that are most commonly reported to have pre-dated the diagnosis of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Increased abdominal size
  • Abdominal and pelvic pain
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Changes in bowel habits

These symptoms are vague and can result from a variety of lifestyle issues, however, if they are persistent, make a call to your Gynecologist for evaluation.


El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems.   Drs. Amy TengErika Balassiano, Pooja Gupta, and Christina Lam, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery.   Dr. Erika Balassiano has also completed a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.

All of our physicians are El Camino Hospital doctors and operate and deliver at the Mountain View campus.

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