It is important to note that doctors are unable to detect stage 1 ovarian cancer since there is no way to perform a screening test. As such, they depend heavily on the symptoms to make a diagnosis. That said, symptoms of ovarian cancer in the early stage may include:
- Abdominal bloating or pain. The area may look visibly swollen and feel tight or uncomfortable to touch.
- Constipation. This is characterized by passing hard feces and having irregular bowel movements—typically less than three times a week.
- Abdominal fullness. This symptom occurs after eating. It may cause discomfort and sometimes increased pain in the abdominal region.
- Loss of appetite. There is difficulty in eating and one feels full rather quickly.
- Frequent urination. The urge to pass urine strikes more than it normally would and may even lead to losing control when the bladder is extremely full.
- Fatigue. This symptom may consist of loss of energy, overall tiredness, and constantly feeling sleepy or drowsy.
- Back pain. Pain may occur in one or multiple areas of the lower back region. This may include the nerves, muscles, ligaments, and the structures that make up the vertebrae.
- Heartburn. Heartburn is not always a result of acidic, fatty, or spicy foods. As a symptom of ovarian cancer, it may cause a consistent burning sensation in the throat and chest.
- Menstrual irregularities. In premenopausal women, ovarian cancer may interrupt the frequency and flow of one’s menstrual habits.
Understanding Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer
According to Healthline, although stage 1 ovarian cancer is the earliest stage, it can be categorized into three substages. They are as follows:
- Stage 1A. Here, the cancer is absent from the outer areas of the ovaries but can be found in one fallopian tube or one ovary.
- Stage 1B. A screening test would show that the cancer formed in both ovaries or fallopian tubes but not on the outer areas of the ovaries.
- Stage 1C. Here, the cancer develops in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. It may also be found on the outer surfaces of the ovaries, secretions from the abdomen, or in the stomach and pelvic areas.
Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer
To determine stage 1 ovarian cancer, a gynecologic oncologist, radiation oncologist, or medical oncologist will likely recommend a pelvic examination. But since the tumors are quite small and likely to go undetected, other tests may include:
- Transvaginal ultrasound. Also known as endovaginal ultrasound, this pelvic ultrasound uses high-frequency technology to capture images of the internal reproductive organs. The results help doctors to determine abnormalities and make diagnosis efficiently.
- Blood tests. A doctor would order a CA-125 blood test to measure the protein levels in the blood. Typically, women with ovarian cancer have high CA-125 levels. However, blood tests are not always an efficient way to determine stage 1 ovarian cancer since not all women with ovarian cancer have a high CA-125 level.
- Biopsy. In a rare move to determine stage 1 ovarian cancer, the tumor may be biopsied using a needle to pierce it directly through the abdomen or during a laparoscopy procedure.
Treating Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer
Generally, removing the tumor is the most common way to treat stage 1 ovarian cancer. Depending on the substage, your doctor may suggest removing the fallopian tubes and other lymph nodes. Since hysterectomies are often unneeded in stage 1 ovarian cancers, you are likely to undergo radiation or chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. In cases where none of the above treatment works, your doctor may opt for targeted therapy to kill the molecules that are causing cancer to spread rapidly.
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