“I’m feeling really bloated today” is a thought that most women have expressed more than once. On those days where you’re having trouble zipping your jeans, you suddenly feel full after a small meal, or you’re just generally feeling sluggish—bloating might be the culprit. While it is usually not a bad thing, if you’re feeling this way consistently for more than a couple weeks then it’s time to see your doctor to figure out if there is more to it than just run-of-the-mill bloating. While there are many simple reasons to explain it, persistent bloating is also one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
WHAT IS BLOATING?
People may have a different definition of what it means to be bloated, but it generally describes the sensation that accompanies the GI tract being filled with gas or air. Feelings usually include a full, swollen, or tightened abdomen. Sometimes it’s just an uncomfortable feeling, but it can also present itself visually with a swollen and hard appearance in the stomach. In addition to being uncomfortable, it may come with gas, frequent belching, and a grumbly stomach.
WHEN IS BLOATING SERIOUS? WHEN IS IT NOT?
It’s safe to say that most people experience bloating at some point in their lives. There are times when bloating is really nothing to worry about. Bloating often presents when you are on your menstrual cycle, when you eat too much, have an intolerance to certain foods, or if you eat a meal too quickly.
MedicineNet lists some common reasons you may feel bloating including:
- Swallowing air from drinking through a straw, or chewing gum.
- Eating too fast
- Eating too much
- Eating fatty foods
- Eating foods that create gas in the intestinal tract (such beans, vegetables, and other high fiber foods)
- Intestinal disorders, for example, IBS, IBD, which includes including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
- Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
- Drinking a lot of soda or other carbonated beverages
If you feel these symptoms infrequently, it’s not likely to be anything serious and can often be addressed with simple changes to your diet.
However, if you find yourself feeling bloated for extended periods of time or it becomes more serious and painful, it’s time to make an appointment and discuss your symptoms with your doctor as this can also be a sign of something more serious like ovarian cancer.
WHAT ARE OTHER SIGNS OF OVARIAN CANCER?
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women, with an estimated more than 21,000 new cases predicted for 2021. Because the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be fairly vague and can be explained by other more common and less concerning health conditions, it is often detected at later stages. In addition to persistent bloating, signs of ovarian cancer include: pelvic pressure, the feeling of having to urinate frequently, and having trouble eating or feeling full quickly.
Since ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, it is crucial that you speak to your doctor whenever you have the symptoms listed above for more than two weeks. In addition to closely monitoring your symptoms and reporting any serious changes to your doctor; it’s vital that you keep close tabs on all aspects of your reproductive health. You should maintain an annual well women’s exam including regular pap smears, do breast self-exams at home, receive regular mammograms beginning in your early 40s, and keep up a healthy weight and lifestyle. All of these factors will help your doctor more closely monitor your health and note any important changes.
If you haven’t had a wellness exam in over a year, are looking for comprehensive women’s healthcare, or have been feeling concerning and persistent symptoms—book an appointment at The Woman’s Clinic today, so we can help you understand your health needs.