Ovarian cancer, known as the “silent killer,” is one of the most challenging cancers to diagnose early. In fact, according to More Health, over 70% of patients in the United States with ovarian cancer receive a late-stage diagnosis. Ovarian cancer’s symptoms often go unnoticed or get mistaken for less serious conditions, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment. This delay can be a significant concern, as early detection of ovarian cancer significantly increases the chances of successful treatment.
Understanding why doctors often miss ovarian cancer is important for improving detection rates and patient outcomes.
Ovarian cancer symptoms, such as bloating, abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits, are common and often attributed to less serious issues like digestive problems or menstrual irregularities. These symptoms are easy to overlook or misinterpret.
Lack of early detection tests
Unlike some other cancers, there are no reliable early detection tests for ovarian cancer, such as mammograms for breast cancer. Routine Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer, making early diagnosis more challenging.
Similarity with other conditions
The symptoms of ovarian cancer closely resemble those of other common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections or even stress. This similarity can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
Subtle onset of symptoms
Often, the symptoms of ovarian cancer start subtly and gradually worsen over time. Women may not notice or take these symptoms seriously until the disease has progressed.
Increased awareness among women and healthcare providers, along with a high index of suspicion for the disease, can lead to earlier diagnosis and better outcomes for those with ovarian cancer. Understanding the challenges in detecting ovarian cancer early is an important step toward improving survival rates and patient care.