During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, let’s discuss this disease that affects one in 78 women.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, so let’s get real about this deadly gynecological cancer. Ovarian cancer can be catastrophic because it isn’t easily detected or diagnosed. Therefore, by the time it’s diagnosed, the cancer can be in advanced stages.
According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society:
- One in 78 women develop ovarian cancer.
- Pap Smear tests do not detect ovarian cancer.
- The five-year survival rate for early stage ovarian cancer is more than 90 percent.
Ovarian cancer can be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infection, gastritis and even stress or depression. In fact, four in five women are misdiagnosed.
But, frustratingly, early diagnosis is critical for the survival of the patient. And, while Pap Smear tests do not test for ovarian cancer, doctors can ask for blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds for a clear diagnosis.
Women who know they have a family history of ovarian cancer are strongly encouraged to speak with their doctors about their choices in early discovery. Hereditary cancer genetic testing is an excellent option, which the doctors at the Advanced Women’s Healthcare offices can assist with. If a woman is discovered to be genetically predisposed to ovarian cancer, the conscientious choice can be made to remove the ovaries.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
These symptoms could indicate ovarian cancer if they are frequent, worsening or last several weeks.
- Increase in tummy size/distended abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Back or pelvic pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal discharge, bleeding or spotting
- Changes in bowel movements/constant urge to have a bowel movement/rectal pain
- Changes in urination frequency/urgency to urinate/pressure on the bladder
- Feeling full after only a few bites
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Unusual weight loss
- Nausea, vomiting, heartburn, gas, burping or indigestion
Treatment of Ovarian Cancer
When a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she will be referred to a gynecologic oncologist, someone who has been trained to treat cancers of the female reproductive system. The patient will be assigned a cancer stage, from I to IV. Stage I means the cancer is confined to the ovaries. Stage IV indicates the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.
Treatment will usually involve a combination of surgery and chemotherapy: surgery to remove cancer tissue and chemotherapy to shrink or kill the cancer.
Depending on the age of the patient and the stage of the cancer during detection, a woman’s survival rate varies. But with early detection, the five-year survival rate is more than 90 percent.
Ovarian is a serious and deadly gynecological cancer, and early detection is vital. Talk with your healthcare provider about hereditary cancer genetic testing if you have family members who have had ovarian cancer.