Here is a comparison between the back pain of ovarian cancer and that of irritable bowel syndrome.
Though this article should not be used to make a home-based diagnosis, it does have the purpose to help guide women and encourage them to have their ovaries checked if they’re having concerning symptoms.
Even if you suspect only IBS, these symptoms should be evaluated by a physician, since serious diseases other than ovarian cancer can mimic IBS.
“Ovarian cancer related back pain is usually localized to the lower back area,” begins Teresa P. Diaz-Montes, MD, of the Gynecologic Oncology Center at Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, MD.
“The pain could be more localized to one side (right or left) of the back depending on the size and location of the ovarian mass,” continues Dr. Diaz-Montes.
”The pain is usually constant and not aggravated by movement. Rarely, there is any irradiation of the pain to the legs or any loss of sensation in the legs.”
By “irradiation,” Dr. Diaz-Montes means pain extending from the back and into the legs.
She continues: “It can be associated with a sensation of pressure in the pelvis. A women may complain of a new onset of constipation or urinary frequency.
“This is due to the compression of the pelvic mass on the adjacent organs. The intensity of the pain is very variable.
“If the mass is small, the pain is duller. When the mass increases in size, the pain is more intense, requiring the use of pain medications.”
As you can see, back pain that does not require painkillers does not rule out ovarian cancer. But how does back pain from IBS usually present itself?
Back pain is not a very common complaint among IBS patients, says Nnenna C. Okpara, MD, gastroenterologist and director of endoscopy at the Center for Women’s Gastrointestinal Health, Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, RI.
But she explains, “IBS patients may describe back discomfort as a cramping sensation, similar to menstrual cramps, which may be secondary to generalized pain or fibromyalgia, or linked to referred pain from abnormal bowel motility.
“It is mostly localized to the lower back, and some patients describe it as worse at night. It also appears to worsen with menses.
“NSAIDs, exercise and muscle relaxation therapies do play a role in the management.”
If you’re experiencing suspicious symptoms, have your ovaries checked before you see the gastroenterologist.
Dr. Diaz-Montes is associate director of The Lya Segall Ovarian Cancer Institute at Mercy Medical Center. Board certified in gynecologic oncology, she has conducted various clinical trials to advance the care of gynecologic cancer. Gynecologic Oncology Center
Dr. Okpara’s clinical interests include colorectal cancer screening, gastrointestinal disease in pregnancy, and management of functional bowel disorders, including IBS and constipation.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.