Ovarian Cancer Is Not Silent: Many Women Experience Common, Nonspecific Symptoms

Maurie Markman, MD


September 13, 2022

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. This is Dr Maurie Markman from Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you about a very interesting report that appeared in Obstetrics & Gynecology, titled "Symptoms of Women With High-Risk Early-Stage Ovarian Cancer."

This is a very interesting report because it looked retrospectively at a group of patients that was very well defined as having early-stage ovarian cancer. Despite that, when reviewing the charts of these patients, it was determined that approximately 70%, in retrospect, had some symptoms — generally abdominal discomfort and some bloating.

I think the importance of this paper, and others on the topic, is that ovarian cancer isn't a silent disease. Symptoms do occur, including early on. In this paper, they found that patients with larger masses — remember, this was early-stage disease — actually had more symptoms.

The problem here is that the symptoms are relatively nonspecific. For individuals who have abdominal discomfort or bloating, there are obviously many other potential causes. In fact, it's far more likely that there's some cause other than ovarian cancer behind these symptoms in a woman.

The major point to be made, however, is that nobody knows an individual woman's body and physiology better than the woman herself. If a woman has symptoms that are for her unusual, or persist beyond a reasonable time — for example, if she has gastroenteritis that should go away, but doesn't — it's important for her to contact her primary care physician, obstetrician, or gynecologist for an evaluation.

This is an important paper, making it clear that ovarian cancer is not a silent disease, even though the early symptoms are generally not specific at all.

I thank you for your attention and I encourage you to read this very interesting paper in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Dr John Chan was the first author. Thank you very much.

Maurie Markman, MD, is president of medicine and science at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. He has more than 20 years of experience in cancer treatment and gynecologic oncology research.

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