Early Ovarian Cancer Symptoms: Why Are They Often So Vague?

Generally, when you’re sick, you can plan on dealing with some annoying symptoms that indicate that something’s wrong. Unfortunately, early ovarian cancer symptoms aren’t usually so obvious.

“Ovarian cancer has been known as the ‘silent killer’ because many women do not experience symptoms until after it is already widespread and considered advanced,” Eloise Chapman-Davis, M.D., gynecologic oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells SELF. “The pelvic cavity is large, and it can take time before a mass … becomes large enough to cause symptoms.”

This is part of why only around 20 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in early stages, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). “Early-stage” ovarian cancer generally means that the cancer is confined to the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes (which is where many ovarian cancers actually start). Sadly, difficulty detecting this disease early enough is inextricably tied with cancer of the ovaries being the deadliest reproductive health cancer out there.

The problem isn’t just that symptoms typically arise when ovarian cancer is more advanced. If signs show up earlier, they’re often vague enough to ignore.

Even if someone does experience symptoms with early-stage ovarian cancer, they may chalk them up to something much more innocuous, Dr. Chapman-Davis says. This makes total sense when you look at the most common symptoms of early-stage ovarian cancer, according to the ACS:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or stomach pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Peeing frequently or feeling a constant urge to do so

These symptoms can obviously apply to so many different health conditions or even something like eating too much at dinner or having a urinary tract infection. So, to be super clear, experiencing these symptoms at random doesn’t mean you immediately need to worry about ovarian cancer, Shannon Westin, M.D., an associate professor in the department of gynecologic oncology and reproductive medicine at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, tells SELF.

Instead, as the ACS explains, these symptoms become potentially worrisome when they’re persistent and not normal for you. If these issues are new and you experience them more than 12 times a month, the ACS recommends seeing a doctor. (You can of course still make an appointment if these symptoms happen fewer than 12 times a month but something about them is still really worrying you.)

Also important to know: Although those symptoms above are the four most common signs of early-stage ovarian cancer, here are some other less common ones, according to the ACS:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation
  • Changes in your period, like heavier or irregular bleeding
  • Stomach swelling even though you’re losing weight

Just like the more common symptoms, these can all happen due to a slew of different things. See your doctor if they’re prolonged and worrying you.

While the symptoms are often hard to pick up on, it’s still possible to catch ovarian cancer early.

When ovarian cancer is detected early, about 94 percent of patients live longer than five years after diagnosis, according to the ACS. Since ovarian cancer is the deadliest reproductive health cancer, those are pretty remarkable odds.

There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of early ovarian cancer detection. One is having regular pelvic exams, the ACS says. During a pelvic exam, your doctor will feel your ovaries and uterus and may be able to feel if something is off. However, the ACS adds, it can be really difficult (or even impossible) to detect most early ovarian cancers by feel.

This is why it’s so essential to flag any strange and persistent symptoms for your doctor. Keep pushing for an answer if they seem to brush off your symptoms, or try to get a second opinion. Doctors are knowledgeable, but you know your body best. If you’re really worried that something is wrong, any doctor you see should take that seriously.

So what about ovarian cancer screening?

Unfortunately, there’s no standardized screening exam for ovarian cancer. Even the best ones have potential pitfalls, especially if you only have an average risk of getting ovarian cancer.

One of the most common screening tests for ovarian cancer is a transvaginal ultrasound, which uses sound waves to look at organs like your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. But even if a transvaginal ultrasound does pick up on an ovarian growth, that doesn’t tell you whether or not the tumor is cancerous. (As the ACS explains, most ovarian masses found by transvaginal ultrasounds are benign.)

The other common screening option is a CA-125 blood test, which measures the amount of a protein called CA-125 in your blood. Many people with ovarian cancer have elevated levels of CA-125, the ACS says. But CA-125 levels can also be high due to conditions like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, the ACS explains, noting that both are more common than ovarian cancer. Furthermore, not everyone with ovarian cancer also has high CA-125 levels, so it’s really not a sure thing. This is why doctors typically don’t recommend these screening tests for people with an average risk of ovarian cancer.

If you’re at a high risk for ovarian cancer (meaning, you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer or you have an inherited genetic condition, like Lynch syndrome or a BRCA gene mutation), talk to your doctor about your options. They might be more inclined to have you undergo a transvaginal ultrasound or CA-125 testing, although it will likely be in conjunction with genetic screening, Dr. Chapman-Davis says.

Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend that you consider preventive removal of your ovaries and fallopian tubes once you’re finished having any kids you may want, according to the ACS. Talking with a doctor you trust is the only way to figure out how concerned you should be about your risk of ovarian cancer and any symptoms you’re worried it may be causing.

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The 11 Best Korean Skin-Care Products at Sephora, According to Customers

I don’t usually jump on skin-care trends, preferring to sit back and assess whether a new product or treatment is worth my time and hard-earned cash. Oftentimes, the hype fades and the social media frenzy moves onto the next “it” thing. Meanwhile, my money stays in my pocket and the same tried-and-true skin-care products sit on my shelves.

However, Korean beauty is the exception. There were approximately 2,000 South Korean beauty brands as of 2015, according to The Cut, and in the U.S., Korean skin-care has steadily gained momentum since the launch of online K-beauty retailers like The Face Shop, Peach & Lily, and Sokoglam. With Sephora devoting an entire section to Korean skin-care, the momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

If you’re new to the world of K-beauty, you might feel a little intimidated amidst so many product choices. Where to begin? Customer reviews are a good place to start, which is why I looked to see what shoppers are gushing about. I compiled a list of top products with at least four-star ratings and 500 or more reviews. Since K-beauty buffs buy only the best, you can trust that you’re making a smart skin-care selection when a product boasts hundreds of glowing comments. From moisturizers to lip masks, this list has something for everyone—K-newbies and longtime K-beauty fans alike.

Best Korean Skin-care Products at Sephora

I don’t usually jump on skin-care trends, preferring to sit back and assess whether a new product or treatment is worth my time and hard-earned cash. Oftentimes, the hype fades and the social media frenzy moves onto the next “it” thing. Meanwhile, my money stays in my pocket and the same tried-and-true skin-care products sit on my shelves.

However, Korean beauty is the exception. There were approximately 2,000 South Korean beauty brands as of 2015, according to The Cut, and in the U.S., Korean skin-care has steadily gained momentum since the launch of online K-beauty retailers like The Face Shop, Peach & Lily, and Sokoglam. With Sephora devoting an entire section to Korean skin-care, the momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

If you’re new to the world of K-beauty, you might feel a little intimidated amidst so many product choices. Where to begin? Customer reviews are a good place to start, which is why I looked to see what shoppers are gushing about. I compiled a list of top products with at least four-star ratings and 500 or more reviews. Since K-beauty buffs buy only the best, you can trust that you’re making a smart skin-care selection when a product boasts hundreds of glowing comments. From moisturizers to lip masks, this list has something for everyone—K-newbies and longtime K-beauty fans alike.

Adolescent brain development impacts mental health, substance use

Advances in understanding adolescent brain development may aid future treatments of mental illness and alcohol and substance use disorders. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2018, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by outsized risk-taking and reward-seeking behavior, including first alcohol and drug exposures, as well as the first emergence of symptoms such as depression and anxiety. And yet, much of the research on brain functions related to these conditions is performed on adults. As we gain a better understanding of adolescence-specific neurological causes of these conditions and behaviors, we increase the potential for early treatments and for interventions even before serious symptoms emerge.

Today’s new findings show that:

  • A variant in an opioid receptor gene in the brain reduces the natural reward response in young adolescents before they have started using alcohol or other substances, indicating carriers of this genetic variant may be more susceptible to addiction (John W. VanMeter, abstract 281.06).
  • Childhood trauma impacts the development of critical brain networks during adolescence, elevating the risk for alcohol abuse (Sarita Silveira, PhD, abstract 645.04).
  • The strength of connections between the brain’s reward and anti-reward systems corresponds to the severity of several important psychiatric symptoms in adolescents, including anxiety and depression (Benjamin Ely, abstract 320.11).

“The neuroscience advances presented today help expand our understanding of the connections between adolescent brain development and mental health issues, including alcohol and substance use,” said press conference moderator Jay Giedd, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, who conducts research on the biological basis of cognition, emotion, and behavior with an emphasis on the teen years. “These advances provide potential new methods to identify young people who have biological susceptibility to addiction and mental illnesses, so we can implement intervention strategies even before problems emerge.”

This research was supported by national funding agencies including the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and several U.S. universities. Find out more about adolescent brain development on BrainFacts.org.

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10 Travel-Friendly Beauty Products Makeup Artists Swear By

Whether you’re heading home for the holidays or jetting off on vacation, you likely want to bring along some of the beauty products that help you feel your best. The only problem? Not everything you love is packaged under 3.4 ounces—meaning it can be stowed in your carry-on—and the last thing you want to add to your travel stress is tragically parting with a beloved product in the security line.

But here’s the good news: There are lots of made-for-travel products on the market these days. From makeup to skin-care, these little sanity savers can make a big difference in your travel experience. Before you pack your next carry-on, check out what top makeup artists say they won’t travel without.

Drinking coffee may reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

Approximately 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide each year.

A new study out of the Krembil Brain Institute, part of the Krembil Research Institute, suggests there could be more to that morning jolt of goodness than a boost in energy and attention. Drinking coffee may also protect you against developing both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Donald Weaver, Co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute. “But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”

Dr. Weaver enlisted Dr. Ross Mancini, a research fellow in medicinal chemistry and Yanfei Wang, a biologist, to help. The team chose to investigate three different types of coffee — light roast, dark roast, and decaffeinated dark roast.

“The caffeinated and de-caffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests,” says Dr. Mancini. “So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine.”

Dr. Mancini then identified a group of compounds known as phenylindanes, which emerge as a result of the roasting process for coffee beans. Phenylindanes are unique in that they are the only compound investigated in the study that prevent — or rather, inhibit — both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, from clumping. “So phenylindanes are a dual-inhibitor. Very interesting, we were not expecting that.” says Dr. Weaver.

As roasting leads to higher quantities of phenylindanes, dark roasted coffee appears to be more protective than light roasted coffee.

“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” says Dr. Mancini. “The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream, or cross the blood-brain barrier.”

The fact that it’s a natural compound vs. synthetic is also a major advantage, says Dr. Weaver.

“Mother Nature is a much better chemist than we are and Mother Nature is able to make these compounds. If you have a complicated compound, it’s nicer to grow it in a crop, harvest the crop, grind the crop out and extract it than try to make it.”

But, he admits, there is much more research needed before it can translate into potential therapeutic options.

“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline. It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not.”

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Materials provided by University Health Network. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

How Do I Stop Feeling Like a Failure? Ask Amber Rae

Amber Rae is here to answer all your burning career questions. From navigating fear, failure, and feeling like an impostor to changing careers to branding yourself, Amber offers advice with radical empathy and care, real talk and real experience. Have a question? Ask Amber Rae at amberrae.com/ask.

Hey Amber,

Between a difficult relationship with my ex co-founder (and former boyfriend) and the realization that the work I’m doing is leading me to feel depleted, tired, and borderline depressed, I’m now committed to selling my business. Boy oh boy that has been a hard pill to swallow! It’s been a decision my ego has fought me on.

Logically, I know my worth isn’t tied to my business. Logically, I know this is what’s best for my well-being and that of the business. This business has felt like a continuation of an abusive relationship—draining. But even though my mind knows all this, emotionally speaking I feel like I failed. I feel like I wasted an opportunity of taking this business on my own and growing it. I feel like I SHOULD have done more with it. I feel like I’m disappointing my community that has supported me and this business for seven years.

I feel ashamed. I feel vulnerable. I feel weak. I feel like I’m giving up on my business and giving up on myself. I’m crying as I write this because it’s so painful to acknowledge.

So, my question to you to is this: How do I avoid feeling like a failure when choosing to let go of my business? Logically I know it’s the right thing to do, but how do I get over that emotional hump of feeling like I’ve failed?

xo,

Feeling Like I Failed

Dear Feeling Like I Failed,

Nearly seven years ago, I joined bestselling author and legendary marketer Seth Godin to start a new kind of publishing company, in partnership with Amazon. This was, by far, one of the most exciting moments of my career. What I didn’t predict is how the experience would challenge everything I knew to be true about entrepreneurship and starting things.

I entered the experience both exhilarated by the opportunity and terrified that I’d fail or make a mistake. Up until that point, I had celebrated myself as a high achiever. I was that person in interviews who’d respond to the question “What’s your greatest weakness?” by answering “I’m a perfectionist.” Secretly, I saw that “weakness” as a strength. And when I did mess up? I’d hide like my life depended on it because I was so ashamed.

You can imagine my complete and utter shock, then, when soon into working with Seth, he encouraged us to “make more mistakes” and “fail as fast as possible.”

“Are you f*cking kidding me?” I thought. I interpreted failing to mean that I was a failure, and since my self-worth was so wrapped up in my accomplishments, dying felt like a better option than exposing my flaws.

But Seth had a point. Failure is inevitable in creating anything, and it’s the person who fails that learns, grows, and eventually wins.

I had been so preoccupied with the question of “What if I fail?” that I was stalling in my life and career. The better question to ask, I learned, is “When I do fail, what will I do then?” Because it’s only after failure that we are one step closer to success and on our way to figuring out the path that does work now that we know what doesn’t.

I get this is easier said than done.

A year after the project with Seth ended, I started my first company, and within six months, ran out of money and royally pissed off and lost the trust of everyone involved.

Like you, I felt ashamed. I felt vulnerable. I felt weak. I felt like I had let everyone down. I was crying under covers, in hallway corners, and over bottles of wine. I felt like I wasted the opportunity to create something big. I felt like a failure. I felt like I didn’t deserve to ever start anything ever again.

Also like you, I had the same thought: “How do I avoid feeling like a failure? How do I avoid feeling ashamed and distraught and like my life is falling apart?” All I did was avoid.

Avoid the uncomfortable feelings.

Avoid the hard conversations.

Avoid the pain.

Avoid the fact that I failed.

But avoiding those feelings didn’t bring me closer to letting go. They gnawed at my soul.

What I came to realize—only after beating myself up, avoiding conflict at all costs, and feeling like I was a total sham—is that I was being invited to answer the question, “Now that I’ve failed, what do I do now?”

First, I acknowledged the pain. I faced the discomfort by pulling open my journal and making a list of all the hard truths I had been avoiding. Tears meant I was writing in the right direction.

Next, I practiced self-compassion and celebrated myself for taking the initial risk—even if the outcome was different than I had hoped. I thought of how I’d speak to a close friend if they were going through a similar situation, and treated myself with the same level of kindness and respect.

Then, I reached out to a friend and mentor I trusted, and shared how ashamed and afraid I felt about the experience. I could feel the shame that had been harboring around my heart begin to dissolve as I uttered the words, “This is really scary to share, but I feel safe with you.” She immediately understood, shared her own battle stories, and I walked away feeling like I had an ally on my path.

Last, I asked myself, “What is my right next move?”—focusing not on the distant future, but on the small controllable things I could do in the present. Step by step, I repaired relationships, paid off debts, and wrote a new ending to that story.

As I came to learn, failure wasn’t the issue. It was my relationship to it. It was my desire to avoid it. It was my longing to get over it—as quickly as possible. It was through confusing my project failing—which when learned from leads to meaningful growth—with me being a failure.

The same goes for you.

Your worth is intrinsic and eternal, no matter what happens in your business. No matter what does or does not go well in your life. And the feelings you’re avoiding? They’re the way through. The “emotional hump” you speak of in your letter is the bag of emotions that are asking you to open up and dive in. That are begging for you to sit with them, and ask, “What are you here to teach me?”

Logic won’t get you through this one, love. But kindness will. Honor your feelings. Cry as much as you need. Treat your tender parts like you would a dear friend who’s aching: with compassion, patience, and love.

Yours,

Amber


Amber Rae is an artist, speaker, and author of the bestselling book Choose Wonder Over Worry. Through her writing and speaking, she encourages emotional wellness and personal growth. She can be found on Instagram @heyamberrae.


Letters to Ask Amber Rae are edited for length and context, and the content of each Ask Amber Rae column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of SELF or SELF editors.

Children’s sleep not significantly affected by screen time, new study finds

Screen-time has little impact on the quality of children’s sleep, according to new Oxford University research.

Screens are now a fixture of modern childhood. And as young people spend an increasing amount of time on electronic devices, the effects of these digital activities has become a prevalent concern among parents, caregivers, and policy-makers. Research indicating that between 50% to 90% of school-age children might not be getting enough sleep has prompted calls that technology use may be to blame. However, the new research findings from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, has shown that screen time has very little practical effect on children’s sleep.

The study was conducted using data from the United States’ 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. Parents from across the country completed self-report surveys on themselves, their children and household.

“The findings suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest,” says Professor Andrew Przybylski, author of the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. “Every hour of screen time was related to 3 to 8 fewer minutes of sleep a night.”

In practical terms, while the correlation between screen time and sleep in children exists, it might be too small to make a significant difference to a child’s sleep. For example, when you compare the average nightly sleep of a tech-abstaining teenager (at 8 hours, 51 minutes) with a teenager who devotes 8 hours a day to screens (at 8 hours, 21 minutes), the difference is overall inconsequential. Other known factors, such as early starts to the school day, have a larger effect on childhood sleep.

“This suggests we need to look at other variables when it comes to children and their sleep,” says Przybylski. Analysis in the study indicated that variables within the family and household were significantly associated with both screen use and sleep outcomes. “Focusing on bedtime routines and regular patterns of sleep, such as consistent wake-up times, are much more effective strategies for helping young people sleep than thinking screens themselves play a significant role.”

The aim of this study was to provide parents and practitioners with a realistic foundation for looking at screen versus the impact of other interventions on sleep. “While a relationship between screens and sleep is there, we need to look at research from the lens of what is practically significant,” says Przybylski. “Because the effects of screens are so modest, it is possible that many studies with smaller sample sizes could be false positives — results that support an effect that in reality does not exist.”

“The next step from here is research on the precise mechanisms that link digital screens to sleep. Though technologies and tools relating to so-called ‘blue light’ have been implicated in sleep problems, it is not clear whether play a significant causal role,” says Przybylski. “Screens are here to stay, so transparent, reproducible, and robust research is needed to figure out how tech effects us and how we best intervene to limit its negative effects.”

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Materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

More than intelligence needed for success in life

Research carried out at the University of Adelaide and the University of Bristol has examined long-held beliefs that success in school and careers is due to more than just high intelligence. Non-cognitive skills are also important.

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour is the first to systematically review the entire literature on effects of non-cognitive skills in children aged 12 or under, on later outcomes in their lives such as academic achievement, and cognitive and language ability.

“Traits such as attention, self-regulation, and perseverance in childhood have been investigated by psychologists, economists, and epidemiologists, and some have been shown to influence later life outcomes,” says Professor John Lynch, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide and senior author of the study.

“There is a wide range of existing evidence under-pinning the role of non-cognitive skills and how they affect success in later life but it’s far from consistent,” he says.

One of the study’s co-authors, Associate Professor Lisa Smithers, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide says: “There is tentative evidence from published studies that non-cognitive skills are associated with academic achievement, psychosocial, and cognitive and language outcomes, but cognitive skills are still important.”

One of the strongest findings of their systematic review was that the quality of evidence in this field is lower than desirable. Of over 550 eligible studies, only about 40% were judged to be of sufficient quality.

“So, while interventions to build non-cognitive skills may be important, particularly for disadvantaged children, the existing evidence base underpinning this field has the potential for publication bias and needs to have larger studies that are more rigorously designed. That has important implications for researchers and funding agencies who wish to study effects of non-cognitive skills,” says Professor Lynch.

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Materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

The reasons for hemispheric dominance in the brain

The left and the right hemispheres specialise in different tasks. However, it has not yet been fully understood how one hemisphere assumes dominance over the other when it comes to controlling specific functions. Biopsychologists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum describe their latest findings in the journal Cell Reports, published online on 30 October 2018. Dr. Qian Xiao and Professor Onur Güntürkün have demonstrated in pigeons that the dominance is caused by slight differences in temporal activity patterns in both hemispheres.

Novel research approach

The two hemispheres are connected via thick nerve fibre bundles, so-called commissures. “In the past, it had been assumed that the dominant hemisphere transmits inhibitory signals to the other hemisphere via the commissures, thus suppressing specific functions in that region,” explains Onur Güntürkün. However, the interactions that take place between the two hemispheres are excitatory, as well as inhibitory. “This is why it has remained a mystery where, exactly, functional brain asymmetries stem from,” says Güntürkün.

In the biopsychology lab in Bochum, the researchers therefore approached this question using a new method. They had pigeons perform a colour differentiation test and extrapolated the activity of individual cells in the birds’ visuomotoric forebrain. That brain region processes information provided by the visual sense and controls motor functions based on visual input. In birds, the left hemisphere is the dominant one for these tasks.

Communication blocked

In order to analyse the influence of inter-hemispheric interaction, Xiao and Güntürkün occasionally blocked the activity of the neurons that communicate with the other hemisphere. They monitored the reactions of those neurons that usually receive input from the other hemisphere. Thus, they were able to decode the influence of the interaction between the two hemispheres.

The result is: if both brain hemispheres compete for control, the left hemisphere is able to delay the activity of neurons in the right hemisphere. “The right hemisphere simply acts too late to control the response,” describes Onur Güntürkün. The researchers demonstrated that the neurons in the left and the right hemispheres are also capable of synchronising their activity in principle.

A question of timing

“These results show that hemispheric dominance is based on a sophisticated mechanism,” concludes Onur Güntürkün. “It does not hinge on one general inhibitory or excitatory influence; rather it is caused by minute temporal delays in the activity of nerve cells in the other hemisphere.”

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Materials provided by Ruhr-University Bochum. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.