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Symptoms Alone Don't Spot Ovarian Cancer Early
Date:1/28/2010

Researcher notes bloating, stomach pain, fatigue also point to less serious diseases

THURSDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Relying on symptoms alone to identify women who have ovarian cancer isn't very effective at catching the disease early, a new study indicates.

Research shows that women with ovarian cancer are much more likely than healthy women to report symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, feeling full quickly after eating and urinary urgency, especially if the symptoms are relatively new and persistent, said study author Mary Anne Rossing, a member of the Program in Epidemiology at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

But because ovarian cancer is fairly rare, while the symptoms are relatively common and possibly explained by less serious conditions, the ability to predict who has cancer based on symptoms alone is limited, Rossing said.

Researchers found that for every 100 women in the general population whose symptoms matched those in a widely accepted ovarian cancer symptom index, only one would actually have early-stage ovarian cancer.

"The rarity of ovarian cancer in the general population results in the positive predictive value of these symptoms in detecting ovarian cancer as being quite low," Rossing said. The disease strikes about one in 72 women.

The study is published in the Jan. 28 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Finding ways to detect early-stage ovarian cancer is an ongoing challenge, said Cara Tenenbuam, vice president of policy and external affairs for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Ovarian cancer sometimes is found during a pelvic exam, but tumors are often too deep within the body for doctors to detect. In addition, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often missed or misdiagnosed as other less serious conditions, including menopause, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome or even
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