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Experts List Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Major US cancer groups have agreed on common symptoms of a deadly disease that often goes unrecognized until it is too late. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Ovarian cancer is known as a "silent killer" because it is usually discovered too late to save a woman's life. But three cancer groups in the United States have now agreed on a list of possible early signs of the disease.

The statement is the first of its kind to recognize what ovarian cancer survivors have long believed: that there are common symptoms. Researchers have found that these symptoms are more likely to happen in women with ovarian cancer than women in general.

One symptom is bloating, or expansion of the abdomen area. Pain in the abdomen or the pelvis can be another symptom. Also, researchers say women with early-stage ovarian cancer may urinate more often or with greater urgency. And the statement says another common symptom is difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks are advised to see a gynecologist or other doctor.

The cancer can affect one or both ovaries, the organs that produce eggs. Doctors say the main ways to find the disease early are recognizing the symptoms and getting a combination pelvic and rectal examination.

Ovarian cancer kills more than one hundred thousand women around the world each year. In the United States, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Cancer experts predict that at least fifteen thousand women will die of it this year. And more than twenty-two thousand new cases will be found.

The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation led the effort for the agreement on common symptoms. The American Cancer Society and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists also were involved. And a number of other cancer groups have expressed support for the statement.

Doctor Barbara Goff at the University of Washington in Seattle was a lead investigator of several studies that gave support to the new list. She says most of the time a woman with these symptoms will not have ovarian cancer. But the disease can spread quickly to nearby organs.

A few months can mean life or death. Doctor Goff notes that the disease is ninety percent curable when found in its earliest form.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For a link to the full statement, and for more news about health and science, go to I'm Barbara Klein.