Susan Lennon MSW, LCSW Content Strategist
Communications Consultant
Specializing in Thought Leadership and B2B/B2C Marketing Communications

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IBS: Know for Sure
USA Weekend Magazine, November 6, 2005
by Susan T. Lennon

As with some of my other briefs, I've included additional information for interested readers.

  If you’re bothered by bloating and cranky from cramps, painful diarrhea or constipation (or both!), you could be among the one in five Americans with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).Once thought to be “all in your head,” research now shows that IBS is a treatable, physiologic disorder that is really all in your gut – and your brain chemistry. And if you have it, you’ve probably had it for a long time – it frequently starts in adolescence.

Many of the symptoms mimic and overlap with other illnesses, and can compromise your quality of life, your career, and your mental health. “It’s really important to get an accurate diagnosis,” advises Christine Frissora, MD, leading New York gastroenterologist, “but, too often, people are embarrassed to see a doctor – and they shouldn’t’ be.”  

It’s vital to seek treatment, and to rule out other medical conditions like celiac sprue, lactose intolerance, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and, for women, endometriosis, and – surprisingly – ovarian cancer.

A study in the October, 2005 edition of Cancer reveals that some women with advanced ovarian cancer had IBS-like distress – especially abdominal swelling and pain – ten to twelve months before their diagnosis.

Lloyd H. Smith, MD, PhD, co-author of the study, recommends that if a woman continues to experience ongoing belly swelling and pain after a routine medical evaluation has eliminated other causes, she should see both a gastroenterologist and a gynecologist to rule out GI disease and ovarian cancer. “Abdominal imaging or other GI tests like endoscopy will not diagnose ovarian cancer,” he warns, “but if an endovaginal ultrasound and a CA 125 test are both negative, that’s pretty good evidence that she doesn’t have it.”

Typical symptoms of IBS (not always present, not generally waking you up at night, but persistent over time):

  • crampy pain in the stomach area  -- often lower left[ix]
  • painful diarrhea or constipation or both, alternating
  • mucus in the stool
  • swollen or bloated abdomen
  • the feeling that you have not finished a bowel movement [ix]

Possible Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer (may wax and wane, but generally occur later in life, and worsen over time):

  • Unexplained change in bowel and/or bladder habits such as constipation urinary frequency, and/or incontinence
  • Gastrointestinal upset such as gas, indigestion, and/or nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal bloating or swelling
  • A constant feeling of fullness
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal or postmenopausal bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse

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