GI Symptoms May Indicate Late-Stage Ovarian Cancer

Women presenting with nausea, vomiting or other gastrointestinal symptoms wait longer for surgery than other women

WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Unresolved gastrointestinal symptoms may be indicators of late-stage ovarian cancer, researchers report in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Women over 65 who present with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or constipation generally experience longer waits to definitive diagnostic tests and surgery than women with gynecological symptoms.

A. Blythe Ryerson, M.P.H., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues used Medicare claims records linked to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) cancer registries to examine the types of symptoms and diagnostic tests recorded within 12 months prior to diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 3,250 women aged 65 and older.

The researchers found that 81 percent of women had some signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer prior to diagnosis. Symptoms of nausea and vomiting were linked to a twofold greater risk of advanced ovarian cancer as were constipation, diarrhea and other digestive symptoms. Gynecologic symptoms, including abnormal bleeding or genital organ pain, were more likely to be associated with early-stage disease, and such women had a surgery rate more than fivefold greater than patients with gastrointestinal symptoms.

"Until more is known about the frequency or severity of these symptoms in women without ovarian cancer, or the potential biologic differences of ovarian tumors presenting at earlier or later stages are identified, women and clinicians must carefully consider all the possible benign and malignant diagnoses when presented with such symptoms," the authors write.

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