“Ugh, I feel so bloated,” said every woman ever at some point in her life.
Bloating—a feeling of belly pressure and discomfort occasionally accompanied by swelling—can be caused by so many things: Overeating or eating certain foods (Brussel sprouts, sugar and grains to name a few), irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and of course the menstrual cycle.
But since it is so common, it’s often overlooked.
A recent study in the United Kingdom, conducted by the Target Ovarian Cancer Organization, found that when faced with bloating, 50% of women simply try to make changes to their diets, while only one of three women will contact their doctors about it.
The concern is that bloating can be a major symptom of ovarian cancer—and it’s getting missed. In fact, only one of five women studied knew that it was a symptom they should be possibly worried about.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that 22,440 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017. According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, a woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1 out of 79. It is most common in women between the ages of 55 and 64, though it does affect women of all ages.
That’s why this recent study is so important. Awareness must be raised about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, so we can diagnose and treat it earlier—and in doing so save lives.
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- Feeling very full after eating
- Loss of appetite
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Needing to pee more frequently
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Weight loss
Target Ovarian Cancer writes, “If you are experiencing the symptoms of ovarian cancer more than 12 times a month, your GP should do a CA125 blood test. A small sample of blood will be taken from your arm and sent to a lab where they will measure the level of a protein called CA125 in your sample.” Ultrasounds may also be done.
Yes, the risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is low (about 1.3%). But it’s enough to warrant action. Getting to the doctor can seem impossible when you’re a busy mom—we all try to ignore symptoms and just keep on going—but remember just how important you are (to a whole lot of people).
And please don’t worry about “overreacting.” Taking care of and advocating for yourself and your health is always the right thing to do.