Ovarian Cancer afflicts more than 20,000 women a year, and about two-thirds of ovarian cancer deaths occur in women age 55 and older. Do you know the signs of ovarian cancer?
Although many ovarian cancer symptoms are vague, signs often include: Persistent gastrointestinal upset such as gas, nausea and indigestion
- Pelvic and/or abdominal pain or discomfort
- Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating or a feeling of fullness
- Frequent or urgent urination in the absence of infection
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Menstrual disorders and/or painful intercourse
- Ongoing unusual fatigue and/or backaches
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits
Because many ovarian cancer signs may appear to be isolated or caused by other illnesses, be sure to see your physician if you experience multiple symptoms. Brian Adelman, M.D., explains, “there are no current screening tests to detect the cancer, a woman’s risk increases as she ages – typically around the time of menopause. Family history is one of the most important factors, which is why it’s important for young women to know if the disease runs in the family.”
“The most common treatment for ovarian cancer is surgery,” says Dr. Adelman. “The stage of the cancer will determine the course of action. Ovarian cancer may result in the removal of a woman’s uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes.” If the cancer has spread, the treatment can also result in the surgical extraction of lymph nodes and other tissues in the pelvis and abdomen.
After surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat any remaining cancer may be recommended.
When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, and has gone through treatment, it is recommended she:
- Visit her gynecologist for a biannual pelvic exam. During the process, the physician will feel for any abnormalities or changes in the reproductive organs.
- Have a physical exam every two to four months for the first two years after diagnosis. Then an exam every six months for the next three years. Once cancer-free, the patient can go back to a yearly physical exam.
- Have a transvaginal ultrasound performed. The procedure is a type of pelvic ultrasound that looks at a woman’s reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, cervix and vagina.
- Ask for a CA-125 blood test when having a pelvic exam. The CA-125 test is used to evaluate ovarian cancer treatment. CA-125 is a protein found more in ovarian cancer cells than in any other type of cells.
- Have a complete CT scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvic areas.
Because the disease is rarely caught during the early stages, it is typically more advanced by the time of diagnosis. Therefore, the prognosis and outcome is often poor. About 76 percent of women diagnosed with the disease survive one year. Only about 45 percent live longer than five years after diagnosis.
However, if the cancer is caught at its earliest stages, and before it spreads, the five-year survival rate can be as high as 94 percent. Be sure to schedule and keep your annual gynecology exams to maintain your ovarian health.