Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Ovarian cancer can be silent until its later stages. By the time a woman begins to feel symptoms, the disease can already be in serious, advanced stages. Approximately 21,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Worldwide, around 140,000 women die of ovarian cancer every year. Having a yearly pelvic exam, and maintaining an ongoing relationship with a gynecologist, can help to lower your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Exercising and following a healthy lifestyle can also help to reduce your risk.
Risk factors for the disease include:
• Genetic predisposition
• Personal or family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer
Early symptoms of the disease can include:
• Pelvic, abdominal pain
• Discomfort while eating or feeling full very quickly
• Feeling the need to urinate urgently and frequently
Other symptoms can include:
• Upset stomach, heartburn
• Back pain
• Pain during sex
• Menstrual changes (before menopause)
If any of the above symptoms persist and don’t respond to normal interventions, then a woman should consider seeing her gynecologist to rule out ovarian cancer. It’s important to note that a Pap smear will NOT diagnose ovarian cancer. If your gynecologist suspects ovarian cancer, he or she will likely perform a pelvic examination and also a transvaginal sonography. A CA-125 blood test which detects a protein produced b ovarian cancer cells may also be recommended.
Your disease will be classified by staging, with stage four the most advanced stage. There is also a possibility that the cancer cells have metastasized or migrated to other organs or sites in the body if it is diagnosed in an advanced stage.
If you are at high risk for ovarian cancer, you should consider the following recommendations:
• Consider undergoing genetic counseling and if you are identified as high risk, possibly have BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic -testing.
• Consider a transvaginal ultrasound with some frequency during child-bearing years
• Consider earlier mammography screening (Age 40 is the traditional age to start having screening mammograms).
If ovarian cancer is diagnosed, treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Complementary therapies can also help to deal with stress and lessen side effects from the disease and certain treatments. Depending on the staging of your disease and your prognosis, you can also discuss the option of participating in an ongoing clinical trial.
September is devoted to raising awareness so that women know more about ovarian cancer and proactively engage in best practices to minimize the risk of developing this disease. You can check out the event calendar on the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition website to find events in your neighborhood.