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Ovarian Cancer or Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Ovarian Cancer or Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect in early stages because there is a lack of specific symptoms and many women receive incorrect diagnoses before learning that they actually have cancer. Only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are detected at an early stage. One common misdiagnosis is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Ovarian cancer and IBS share some similar symptoms, including bloating and abdominal pain and distention. These symptoms are also prevalent in cases of diverticulitis, gallbladder issues, hernias and urinary issues. There are some distinctions between ovarian cancer and IBS. IBS is a chronic condition, but the symptoms are intermittent. With ovarian cancer, the symptoms do not come and go, but instead get worse over time. If you are at a high risk of developing ovarian cancer, testing with ultrasound or certain blood tests may be helpful, however, neither test has proven to be particularly helpful in early detection of ovarian cancer in women of average risk. If you are having symptoms of bloating and abdominal pain, see your AOA physician and get it checked out. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam and may include a pelvic ultrasound. While tests for ovarian cancer may not always be accurate, they can help your doctor make a more informed decision about whether to proceed to a surgical procedure, which is the only definitive way to diagnose ovarian cancer.

Early tests might include a blood screening for CA-125 levels, an ultrasound, or a CT scan. Women with ovarian cancer often have elevated CA-125 levels, but again, simply having elevated levels is not conclusive. An ultrasound can show a growth, but is unable to identify the growth as a tumor, and a CT scan allows your doctor to see more details of your internal organs. While none of these tests are definitive, used together they can help determine if a surgery should be performed to confirm a diagnosis.

The important thing to remember is that misdiagnoses of ovarian cancer, especially with certain diseases like IBS is not uncommon. If you’re experiencing troubling symptoms, talk with your AOA physician about getting additional tests to insure the correct diagnosis and to catch any signs of ovarian cancer as early as possible.

Learn more about ovarian cancer and the dangers of misdiagnosis: