Objective: The purpose was to explore whether health education on symptoms of ovarian cancer would aid in early detection, by examining the relationship between symptoms, coping strategies, and timing of presentation in patients with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer.
Methods: Eighty women were included. A questionnaire consisting of a series of open questions was designed to collect information on the sequence of events from the onset of symptoms to the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The Coping Response Inventory (CRI) was used to assess the coping strategies.
Results: A majority (90.0%) of women with ovarian cancer did have symptoms before the diagnosis. Abdominal pain or discomfort, abdominal distension, a palpable abdominal mass, menstrual, bowel, or urinary symptoms were the commonly reported symptoms. Eight (10.0%) patients were totally asymptomatic prior to the cancer diagnosis. The presence of bowel symptoms was significantly associated with late stage disease. Most of the patients sought medical advice within 2 weeks from the onset of symptoms. There was no association between the presence of any particular symptom(s) and the timing of presentation. There was also no correlation between the coping strategies and stage of disease and timing of presentation. On average, patients with early stage disease saw one more doctor compared to patients with late stage disease before the affirmative diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
Conclusion: Most patients presented early after the onset of symptoms. Health education in this regard may not be useful for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer.