Some call it a silent killer. That’s because the symptoms of ovarian cancer often go undetected until it’s too late.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer and 14,000 deaths due to ovarian cancer in 2018.

The cure rate for Stage 1 ovarian cancer is greater than 90 percent,” says Robert Squatrito, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “But for advanced stages, it is less than 25 percent.”

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and EVMS experts want to make sure women know the signs.

According to Dr. Squatrito, the challenge with ovarian cancer is that its symptoms are generally vague and nonspecific. “They can mimic indigestion, reflux, diverticulitis or other benign conditions,” he says. Symptoms can include:

  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal or pelvic discomfort
  • Decreased appetite or early satiety 
  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Increased abdominal size

If any of the above symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks, they should be thoroughly investigated. That said, there currently is no test for ovarian cancer, and PAP tests can’t detect it. Dr. Squatrito says pelvic exams, pelvic ultrasounds, CT scans and biopsies may be needed for a diagnosis.