Ovarian cancer is a malignant growth on a woman’s ovary & currently ranks as the 5th most deadliest cancer for women in the United States. If found early, ovarian cancer is relatively treatable, but is often times not detected until it has spread throughout the abdominal & pelvic areas. This is largely due to the lack of symptoms associated with early stage ovarian CA & then the generalized symptoms associated with advanced stage ovarian CA (such as bloating, abdominal/pelvic discomfort, changes in appetite or weight). Ovarian CA may be misdiagnosed as different medical conditions first due to the commonly non-specific symptoms.
Depending on the stage, ovarian CA is often treated with surgery, chemotherapy, & targeted therapies. Patients in early stages may require only tumor removal surgery, whereas patients with more advanced stages often require a combination of tumor-debulking surgeries & platinum-based chemotherapy. As PTs, we can already start to guess some of the side effects these patients may experience.
Ovarian CA & PTs
So where do PTs come into play with these patients? Answer: anywhere at any time. Truly.
- Before treatment starts
- During treatment
- After treatment
- Before diagnosis: that’s right, even before they know they have ovarian CA. I’m not saying we’re going to diagnose a patient with cancer because that’s not what we do. However, a thorough history & presentation assessment with your patient determines if you can start treatment on this patient now or if they need a referral elsewhere For example: a patient comes in with a musculoskeletal issue (let’s say shoulder pain for kicks & giggles), but also complains of bowel changes, worsening fatigue, & abdominal discomfort & bloating. Even if you don’t treat “oncology patients,” you still have to know that there are some red flags here that should cue your brain to say “hmmm something else is going on.” This is part of why it is so important to not be so laser-focused on the referral reason or chief complaint that you miss a bigger issue happening with the patient in front of you.