Misdiagnosis in Women May Leave Ovarian Cancer Undetected

It is an unfortunate fact that in the doctor’s office, women’s symptoms often are dismissed or underreported. Doctors may attribute indigestion, headaches or chest pain as symptoms of stress; or women may disregard such symptoms and not tell their doctors about the health issues they are experiencing.

Just because a woman’s symptoms seem common, they should not be overlooked when making a diagnosis. Many symptoms that are considered mild, like bloating, abdominal pain, indigestion and fatigue can actually be symptoms of a more sinister disease: ovarian cancer.

Like other cancers, ovarian cancer is best caught early to produce favorable results for the patient. However, if seemingly benign symptoms are ignored, the chances of catching ovarian cancer in its early stages are slim. Unfortunately, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer like the Pap test for cervical cancer, so doctors must pay careful attention to women when they share symptoms.

Fortunately, there are several steps women can take to advocate for themselves at the doctor’s office. The first, most important step, is sharing all symptoms, no matter how unimportant they seem. This is especially crucial if these symptoms are persistent and frequent. Seeing a gynecologist versus a general practice doctor may also be beneficial. If a doctor refuses to take symptoms seriously, seek a second opinion. Be sure to record symptoms and how frequent they are, and request a blood test and ultrasound if symptoms do not abate or get worse.

Ovarian cancer is a serious disease, but the chances of recovery increase with early detection. Be sure to report all symptoms to your doctor, and if you are unsatisfied with his or her conclusions, seek a second opinion. Teaching women to be self-advocates will go a long way to preventing the issues of misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, or failure to diagnose cancer.

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