Why Every Husband Should Know the Signs of Ovarian Cancer

July 12, 2016

Being aware of ovarian cancer symptoms is one of the most important strategies for survival. The disease is the most lethal gynecological cancer, but it’s difficult to detect — largely because people aren’t aware of the risks and warning signs.

For husbands, knowing your wife’s medical history and keeping an eye out for red flags can increase her chances of diagnosis and survival. Women tend to place the needs of others ahead of their own, sometimes neglecting their own physical health. But the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be visible to family members, even in its earliest stages. Working together as a team can make a difference when it’s needed the most.

How to Ring the Alarm

The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer found and treated in stage 1 is 92 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Those chances decrease steadily if the cancer is allowed to progress; the stage 4 survival rate is just 17 percent. In other words, it’s highly curable if you can see the signs early.

Here are some ways a husband can be an advocate for his wife on her path to a clean bill of health:

1. Don’t ignore the little things.

The signs of ovarian cancer are new and frequent, happening 10 or more times a month. Unfortunately, they are also nonspecific, which makes them difficult to catch.

Former Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. Looking back, she realized that she completely overlooked important symptoms. During an interview, she recalled that she’d felt perfectly healthy until her doctor found a pelvic mass. It was her husband who pointed out that she’d been suffering from stomach pains in the months leading up to her diagnosis.

You may notice things that your wife doesn’t see as serious threats. She may complain about being more tired or bloated. She may lose her appetite during meals. Other warning signs are complaints of back, pelvic, or abdominal pain and pressure. Sudden weight loss or frequent urination are also commonly mistaken for more benign conditions. What your wife thinks is just constipation could be advanced-stage ovarian cancer.

2. Form a united front.

The first thing a husband should do in this situation is offer his support and suggest a trip to the doctor. Accompany her to the checkup, and plan a day of it so things don’t seem so daunting.

These symptoms could simply be stomach, back, or bladder problems. Whatever the issue, it needs to be investigated; having ovarian cancer on your radar can keep it from being overlooked.

3. Call for reinforcements.

If your wife is still worried about seeing a doctor, reach out to friends or family for support in calming her nerves and helping make the decision to seek treatment. Reassure her that even though it could be a scary road, she’ll never have to go it alone.

Don’t let your wife ignore potentially serious symptoms, and make sure she gets the help she needs from doctors who consider ovarian cancer as a possibility. Sometimes, a husband can see a sign that his wife had simply dismissed. Caring for your wife, keeping an eye out for the symptoms, and getting her the help she needs could end up saving her life.