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Gynecol Oncol. 2003 Jul;90(1):75-82.

Characterization of prediagnostic symptoms among primary epithelial ovarian cancer cases and controls.

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1
Cancer Prevention, Detection and Control Research Program, Box 2949, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The goal of this study was to characterize types, frequency, combinations, and relative onset of symptoms among ovarian cancer cases and controls.

METHODS:

Participants were from an ongoing, population-based, case-control study of primary epithelial ovarian cancer in a 48-country region of North Carolina. Incident cases (N = 267), aged 20-74, were identified by area hospitals on a rapid case ascertainment basis between April 1999 and March 2001. Population-based controls, with at least one intact ovary, frequency matched on age and race, were identified using random-digit dialing (N = 287) and Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) phone lists (N = 30). Trained nurse-interviewers, using a standardized questionnaire, asked participants about specific symptoms experienced for at least 2 weeks in the year prior to diagnosis (cases)/interview (controls).

RESULTS:

More than 90% of cases reported at least one symptom and symptoms were most often the reason for the doctor visit leading to diagnosis (74%), followed by routine examination (12%). Among invasive cases, symptoms with onsets longer before diagnosis (median 5-7 months) included gas/nausea/indigestion; urinary frequency/urgency; bowel irregularity; abnormal menstrual/vaginal bleeding or discharge; pain during intercourse; and ongoing fatigue. Symptoms with onsets closer to diagnosis (median of 2-4 months) included distended/hard abdomen; bloating/feeling of fullness; unexplained weight gain/loss; pelvic/abdominal discomfort; chest pain/respiratory difficulties; and "other" symptoms. Controls reported fewer symptoms than cases (median 1 vs 5 or 6). Control symptoms were of longer duration and much less likely to occur in combination.

CONCLUSION:

Earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer may be possible if women and physicians recognize the importance of combinations of seemingly unrelated symptoms, especially those identified as occurring longer before diagnosis.

PMID:
12821345
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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