Incontinence May Be a Sign of Ovarian Cancer

Published Online: Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Women with urinary incontinence and abdominal cramping may need to worry about cancer. Both are early signs of ovarian cancer, and, even if isolated or chronic, these "abdominal" problems warrant a pelvic exam to rule out cancer, according to a study recently reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. For the study, the researchers reviewed medical records for 107 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The results of the study found:

?18% of the women had urinary symptoms (ie, incontinence) that proceeded to get worse over 2 or 3 weeks. "Incontinence usually happens gradually over several years, not that quickly," noted lead researcher Barbara P. Yawn, MD.

? 22% of the women experienced abdominal pain that lasted for longer than 2 weeks, not associated with diarrhea or vomiting.

?10% of the women had spotting, unusual among women over age 40. "Usually by then things have settled down quite a bit," explained Dr. Yawn.

Diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer in the early stages is crucial to survival. "The message for women is, if you have vague symptoms that last more than 2 weeks, if you are over 40, get it checked?then be persistent. Do not quit until you have a definite diagnosis," stressed Dr. Yawn.

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