While ovarian cancer now has symptoms that can warn women, those same symptoms can also be caused by harmless conditions like weight gain or cramps.
As a result, too many patients are still being diagnosed too late. One Seattle doctor hopes to change that.
Jamie Crase never thought she'd get ovarian cancer.
"Big surprise. My husband and I were in completely in shock," said Crase.
That's not unusual.
"The reality is that 85-90 percent of ovarian cancers actually occur in women without a family history," said Dr. Barbara Goff, Seattle Cancer Alliance.
Because ovarian cancer is so rare, it's too expensive to screen every woman. So Goff came up with another approach - prescreening patients at doctor visits using the symptoms checklist she developed in 2004.
Those symptoms need to be new and occurring frequently. They include:
Bloating Increased abdominal size Pelvic or abdominal pain Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Women who answer yes will receive additional screening.
"We can evaluate are there any cancer markers that are suspicious for ovarian cancer and if there are, then those women get referred to GYN cancer specialists," said Goff. "And for the majority of women that's not the case, then they can be reassured that their symptoms are not ovarian cancer."
Looking back, Crase says all the symptoms were there.
"I knew something was wrong. It ended up being Stage 3, so it was caught pretty late, for me anyway," said Crase. "Had it been caught sooner, it would have meant a lot easier treatment."
The survey will be available at University of Washington clinics.
When detected early, ovarian cancer has a 90 percent survival rate.