Interview with Ken Swenerton, MD, FRCPC
Cancer Medicine in Gynecology
Clinical Professor, Faculty of Medicine,
University of British Columbia
Q. What is ovarian cancer?
A. Ovarian cancer has long been thought to be a disease that started on the surface of the ovary and ends up involving one or both ovaries and spreads through the abdominal cavity primarily, and that's been our understanding for decades and decades. We now know that that may not be the case and that ovarian cancer rather than being a single disease is a family of quite distinct diseases with different behaviours, different origins, different biology, different presentations and so on.
Q. What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
A. The symptoms vary quite a little bit. In about a third of the cases women and in this case usually younger women present with a self-identified lump in the lower abdomen. They'll have a sense of pressure on the bladder or on the rectum, a sense of feeling occupied in the pelvis. Two thirds of the time the presentation is very different and rather than primarily pelvic symptoms, these women will present with abdominal symptoms, intestinal symptoms, abdominal bloating, a sense of filling up quickly, you know, if they've eaten and ultimately quite a lot of abdominal distension and swelling. So two fairly distinct patterns of presentation.