Ovarian cancer awareness

Ovarian cancer attacks the women’s reproductive system and is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women each year. However, if it is noticed early, the treatment can be life-changing. Unfortunately, only about 20% of cases are caught early, so that is thousands of lives that could potentially be saved. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, an effort to increase the early detection percentage through education and understanding. The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that early findings are important and lead to a 97% survivor rate of more than five years post diagnosis.

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect because many of its symptoms can resemble other more common conditions. It is important to listen to your body and understand what is normal for you. When there’s notice of a change in your “norm” that lasts more than two weeks, it is time to talk to your doctor. The earlier ovarian cancer is found and treated, the more likely for an effective treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms for ovarian cancer are as follows:

  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pain and/or pressure in the pelvic or abdominal area
  • Back pain
  • Swelling or bloating
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Having to pass urine urgently or often
  • Constipation or diarrhea

At Risk
The most at-risk group for ovarian cancer is Caucasian women, post menopause and over the age of 60. Additional risk factors include never giving birth, having a close family member who had ovarian cancer, genetic mutations and middle-aged women. “Recent studies suggest that women who take estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for 10 or more years may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states. The full list of risk factors and a woman’s likelihood of developing ovarian cancer can be found on the ACS website.

If there are noticeable symptoms talk to your doctor to see if a diagnostic test is the right choice. If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, see a gynecologic oncologist to discuss the stage of your cancer, as well as treatment options and side effects. Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and radiation. Oftentimes more than one treatment plan will be used. While the decision of which treatment is right for you may be difficult, there are trained professionals that will discuss all the risks and benefits involved. A second opinion may be worthwhile as well to fully understand what is going on in the reproductive organs.
As the cause of ovarian cancer is not yet known, educating one another of the risk factors and the correct steps to take could save the life of a loved one or yourself. Learn more at the CDC and ACS websites, where you can also live chat with professionals.