“It must be perimenopause.” That’s what Rebecca and her friends thought. Rebecca, whose name we’ve changed for privacy purposes, was living a full life. She enjoyed a busy social calendar, a close-knit circle of family and friends, and an active lifestyle that included regular yoga classes to keep her healthy and fit. While Rebecca had recently started complaining of bloating, she chalked it up to perimenopause. Others her age also struggled with mid-section weight gain, so she figured that was what she was experiencing too.
Then, one day, she noticed abdominal discomfort and the need to pee more frequently. Her local OBGYN said it might be a urinary tract infection (UTI) or gastro issue and that he wasn’t overly concerned. He ordered routine tests, including urine analysis and blood work, all of which came back within normal ranges.
Weeks turned into months. Rebecca began noticing changes in her menstrual cycle; again, she figured it was probably perimenopause. But her stomach discomfort persisted, and to add to it, she started losing weight and experiencing more fatigue than usual. That’s when her concern ramped up.
Rebecca immediately sought a second opinion from another physician in the area who carefully examined her and listened to all her symptoms. The doctor ordered a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test, which can indicate ovarian cancer. The results revealed an enlarged ovary and elevated CA-125 levels, which meant she was potentially facing an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
The doctor who provided Rebecca with a second opinion referred her to the care of an oncologist. Following more tests, she was diagnosed with stage II ovarian cancer. Rebecca, her friends, and her family were devasted, but she took it head-on and proceeded with treatment immediately. The chemotherapy was a success, and she achieved remission. Nevertheless, she couldn’t help but wonder if an earlier diagnosis might have led to more favorable treatment options or an improved prognosis.
Ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed, so an expert second opinion is imperative.
About 70 percent of ovarian cancer patients receive a late-stage diagnosis. However, if caught and treated early, there is a better chance of remission. About 60% to 90% of patients diagnosed with stage one or two ovarian cancer are disease-free five years later.
THERE ARE SEVERAL REASONS WHY OVARIAN CANCER MAY BE MISDIAGNOSED:
- Symptoms overlap with other conditions
Ovarian cancer symptoms often masquerade as something less serious, which is why the disease is often called the “silent killer.” Women can experience bloating, abdominal pain, frequent urination, gastrointestinal or urinary issues, or feeling full quickly. All the above can overlap with symptoms for common conditions, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or irritable bowel symptoms (IBS)—which can lead to a misdiagnosis or, in Rebecca’s case, a delayed diagnosis.
- Misinterpretation of symptoms
Even when a woman presents with symptoms that could be ovarian cancer, healthcare professionals may not immediately consider cancer a potential diagnosis. Waiting to do tests that can confirm or rule out ovarian cancer delays the diagnosis.
- Lack of specific screening tests
There is no widely used screening test for ovarian cancer. As a result, the diagnosis may be missed or delayed. Pap smears primarily detect HPV and cervical cancer and are ineffective for identifying ovarian cancer.
- Non-specific imaging results
When it comes to ovarian cancer, imaging tests like CT scans or ultrasounds may be inconclusive. In addition, interpreting these tests requires expertise, as subtle signs of cancer can be tough to detect and potentially lead to a misdiagnosis.
As both Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Second Opinion Awareness Month approach, talk to your doctor to understand your risks of developing the disease. Listen to your body and be your own healthcare advocate. If you’re concerned about ovarian cancer or have persistent symptoms, speak with a healthcare professional who can thoroughly evaluate your symptoms and provide appropriate care. These actions can make all the difference in early detection.
Companies like MORE Health provide remote second opinions from world-leading experts. Our service includes a Case Manager who acts as a patient advocate, walking the individual through the process and answering any questions. There is no wait, no exams, and no referral needed, so the patient can go about their day-to-day life uninterrupted while a leading specialist virtually reviews their case. Physician specialists are selected for their expertise in their field or subspecialty; they are not selected by location. Within five days or less of receiving the medical records, the specialist sends the patient a final report through our secure patient portal detailing how they would diagnose and treat the case.
When facing a serious illness such as ovarian cancer, quick access to an expert second opinion can give patients the confidence and peace of mind they need to make the best healthcare decisions. It may even save their life.
About MORE Health®
MORE Health is a global digital health company known for giving individuals access to the best medical minds in the world when facing a serious illness or diagnosis. Recognized as a leader in cross-border telemedicine, MORE Health delivers virtual Expert Medical Opinions from world-leading specialists by pairing technology and world-class service. This service is available to groups of any size in the U.S. and abroad as an employee benefit or on an individual self-pay basis. Since 2013, MORE Health has helped patients on six continents and continues its mission to provide patient advocacy to clients and members worldwide when they need it most.