Symptoms experienced by women that are more severe or frequent than expected and of recent occurrence warrant further diagnostic investigation because they are more likely to be associated with both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) ovarian masses, according to a study in the June 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“Ovarian cancer has often been called the ‘silent killer’ because symptoms are not thought to develop until advanced stages when chance of cure is poor,” the authors provide as background information in the article. The authors looked at previous research which found that “80 percent to 90 percent of women with early stage disease will report symptoms for several months prior to diagnosis.” The authors continue, “Identification of early symptoms may have important clinical implications because 5-year survival for early stage disease is 70 percent to 90 percent compared with 20 to 30 percent for advanced-stage disease.”
In this study, Barbara A. Goff, M.D., from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and colleagues compared the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms between women with ovarian masses (n=128) and women in the control group who visited two primary care clinics for a general check-up (n=1,709). The women were asked to complete an anonymous survey of symptoms experienced over the past year (July 2001 – January 2002). Severity of symptoms was rated on a 5-point scale, duration was recorded, and frequency was indicated as number of episodes per month.
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