What Are Ovarian Cancer Symptoms After the Menopause?

Menopause will not cause ovarian cancer, but your risk increases during this period of time. Learn the cancer symptoms to detect it early.

Developing ovarian cancer becomes more of a risk after menopause, even though this transition isn’t considered a cause of cancer. Symptoms for ovarian cancer can be difficult to discern from other conditions. Early symptoms can be regular bloating, abdominal pain or persistent pelvic pain as well as trouble with eating. There are several cases where it isn’t diagnosed until the cancer is in other organs as well. It’s important to get an early diagnosis to better treat the disease.  

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer After Menopause

Symptoms of Very Early Stage Ovarian Cancer

Referring to a cancer’s stage is referring to how it spreads and grows. The earliest stages mean the cancer is still in the ovary and this is called stage one. It is common for women with early stage cancer to not have symptoms. If they do, some symptoms would be:

  • Abdominal pain, especially to the side or in the lower stomach
  • A ‘full feeling,’ or being bloated

Symptoms If the Cancer Has Grown Outside the Ovary

When cancer has grown outside the ovary, it is called stage 2 or 3 ovarian cancer. The following symptoms may be from growing tumors in the pelvic region:

  • Vaginal bleeding or irregular periods after menopause
  • Lower abdomen or tummy pain
  • Urinating more frequently.
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer After Menopause That Has Spread Further Away

This is called stage four cancer. Some symptoms can include:

  • Being or feeling sick
  • Bloated abdomen or feeling full
  • Feeling constipated
  • Being tired
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Being short on breath

When to See Your Doctor

Be sure to pay a visit to your physician if:

  • You have unusual symptoms.
  • Your symptoms aren’t going away.

It is unlikely that your symptoms mean you have ovarian cancer, but you should get them checked by a doctor.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

When cells multiply and divide in an unregulated way, it is referred to as cancer. When this is found in the ovary, it is ovarian cancer. The exact reason this happens is unclear. These risks can increase the chance of getting the symptoms of ovarian cancer after menopause.

Your Family History

Those who have relatives who’ve had breast or ovarian cancer are at a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer than other women. Genetic testing can be done to screen out genes associated with the risk.

Age

Many cases of ovarian cancer happen after a woman goes through menopause. This can be especially true for those over 63 but is less common before 40.

Reproductive History

Those who have had a pregnancy or more that went full-term are at a lower risk. This is especially true for those that were pregnant before 26 and your risk decreases the more pregnancies you have. Breastfeeding will also decrease your risk.

Birth Control

If you have used the pill for a minimum of three months, your risk may be reduced. The longer you’ve been on the pill, the lower the risk can be. Risk is decreased further if the birth control has been the Depo-shot and it’s been used for more than three years.

Fertility Treatment or Infertility

There are some fertility drugs associated with a higher risk of ovarian cancer. This is especially true in the case where women have had to use them for longer than a year without getting pregnant. It may also be that the higher risk in those that are infertile is due to lack of carrying a pregnancy.

Breast Cancer

If a woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer, she has an increased risk of getting diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This is why those who test positive for BRCA2 or the BRCA1 gene may decide on oophorectomy for preventative measures.

Hormone Therapy

For women who have used HRT, risk of developing ovarian cancer increases. The longer you’re on it, the more your risk may increase. It also appears risk will return to normal once your treatment ceases. Danazol, or androgen therapy may up the risk as well.

Overweight or Obesity

There does seem to be an increased risk to many cancers with those who are overweight or obese. For women with a BMI of 30 or more, ovarian cancer is more common.

Gynecologic Surgery

If you have had surgery on your reproductive organs, your risk of ovarian cancer may be reduced. Women who have tubal ligation may have a two-thirds risk reduction. A hysterectomy may reduce it by a third.

Endometriosis

Those who have endometriosis can have about a 30 percent greater chance of getting ovarian cancer over other women; so do the symptoms of ovarian cancer after menopause.

Can Ovarian Cancer Be Prevented?

The majority of women have at least one risk factor or two for ovarian cancer. These common factors generally only slightly increase your risk. Risk factors haven’t helped prevent most cancer cases as of now. There are some ways you can reduce your risk for epithelial ovarian cancer. There is little known about lowering the risk of stromal tumors or germ cell problems in the ovaries. The following discussion is of epithelial ovarian cancer, specifically.

Some strategies may only provide a minor reduction, while others are more helpful. Some may be easy to try, while others involve surgery. If you are worried about ovarian cancer, you should speak with your doctor, so they can help you develop a plan.

Oral Contraceptives

Taking birth control pills, or oral contraceptives can lower the risk of ovarian cancer, particularly for those who use them for several years. Those who used birth control pills for five or more years saw as much as a fifty percent decrease in risk of ovarian cancer compared to those who didn’t take the pill for so long. It’s important to think about the side effects and risk of birth control pills if you’re considering using them. It should be discussed with your doctor to see if it is right for you.

Gynecologic Surgery

A hysterectomy or even tubal ligation can risk your chance of ovarian cancer. Generally, doctors agree these procedures should be reserved for medical reasons other than prevention of cancer.

If you are considering a hysterectomy because of medical reasons and have a family history for ovarian cancer, you may want to get both fallopian tubes and ovaries removed. This is called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

There are some doctors who will recommend removing the ovaries with the uterus if a woman is over 40 and has gone through or is close to menopause. If you are in this stage, you should discuss this with your doctor.

More Tips

It can be difficult to protect yourself from ovarian cancer after menopause. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Report unusual bleeding or stomach pain to your doctor.
  • Get regular pelvic exams.
  • Don’t use too much powder near your vagina.
  • If your mother, daughter or sister has a history of ovarian cancer, tell your doctor.
  • Eat a diet low in fat.
  • Consider hormonal birth control
  • Those with a family may want surgery after their done having children.

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