Ovarian Cancer: Early Symptom Patterns

Dixie Koldjeski

Mary K. Kirkpatrick

Melvin Swanson

Lou Everett

Sylvia L. Brown

ONF 2003, 30(6), 927-933. DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.927-933

Purpose/Objectives: To examine early symptom and diagnostic-seeking experiences of women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Design: Longitudinal descriptive.

Setting: Homes of families.

Sample: Purposive; 19 families were obtained by referrals.

Methods: Interviews and questionnaires; descriptive analysis.

Main Research Variables: Early symptoms and delays in diagnosis.

Findings: Families were 88% Caucasian and 12% African American. Almost two-thirds had annual incomes of $25,000 or more. The ages of the patients with cancer ranged from 28-73 years (X = 56 years). Delay between initial symptoms and diagnosis was X = 14 weeks. Early symptoms experienced by 95% of women were abdominal bloating, vague abdominal pain and "spots," indigestion problems, fatigue, and urinary problems.

Conclusions: Women usually experience a cluster of symptoms, unrecognized and discounted, which delays diagnosis.

Implications for Nursing: Pelvic assessments should be reformulated to conceptualize early symptoms, risk factors, and family cancer history as a dynamic, interconnected whole to guide and interpret ovarian health.

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