Ovarian Cancer Risks: What You Should Knowby Carissa Andrews - September 18th, 2015
Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers for women. Approximately 22,000 women are diagnosed each year in the United States with Ovarian Cancer; of those, nearly 64% will die. Worldwide statistics, according to the World Health Organization have exactly the same death toll percentage.
One of the scariest things about Ovarian Cancer is that we don’t have adequate screening processes to detect it at its earliest stages – when survival rates are at their best. Instead, many women won’t discover the cancer until it’s much too late; when it has already spread throughout the body. Perhaps it’s just me, but this kinda pisses me off. Over HALF of all women will die once it’s been detected. That means your chances of death are higher than your survival, people. This could be you, your mother, your grandmother – heck, it could be your daughter.
What are the symptoms? What are the risks?
Part of the reason ovarian cancer isn’t detected earlier is because the symptoms are just too vague.
Potential symptoms include:
• Pelvic or abdominal pain
• Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
• Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
Would you recognize any of these and talk to your doctor? Probably not. I can’t say cancer would be the first on my list.
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
• Upset stomach or heartburn
• Back pain
• Pain during sex
• Menstrual changes
Well, that’s a whole host of symptoms that could relate to a ton of ordinary, every day kind of issues. It’s no wonder most ladies don’t catch it until the cancer has spread from the ovaries.
How is it detected?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a consistently reliable test to detect ovarian cancer. More research has to be done in order to make headway with this deadly disease. Here are some tests that are available and should be offered to women; especially those at high risk for ovarian cancer.
• Pelvic Exam:According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, women age 18 and above should have a mandatory annual vaginal exam; which is just smart anyway. Women age 35 and above should receive an annual rectovaginal exam (Not so much fun, but necessary if you’re high risk. This is where a physician inserts fingers into the rectum and vagina simultaneously to feel for abnormal swelling and to detect tenderness).
• Transvaginal Sonography:This ultrasound is performed with a small instrument placed in the vagina. It’s a good test for women at high risk for ovarian cancer or for those with an abnormal pelvic exam. In all honesty, it’s no big deal – much like the vaginal ultrasounds when determining an early pregnancy.
• CA-125 Test:For women at high risk of ovarian cancer (or who have had an abnormal pelvic exam), this blood test determines if the level of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells, has increased in the blood.
According to the NOCC:“While CA-125 is an important test, it unfortunately is not always accurate. Some non-cancerous diseases of the ovaries also increase the CA-125 levels, and some ovarian cancers may not produce enough CA-125 levels to cause a positive test."
My test is positive, now what?
It’s very important that if any these show positive results, you need to consult with a gynecologic oncologist right away. They will likely conduct a CT scan and X-Rays so they can study the results. However, a biopsy is the only way to accurately confirm ovarian cancer at this time. This involves your doctor taking a sample of your tumor so it can be examined under a microscope and positively identified. Once confirmed, you’ll have a number of options to try in treating ovarian cancer. Below are the major ones, but keep in mind, many alternative therapies are also available.
SurgeryWith surgery, your qualified gynecologic oncologist will try to remove the cancerous growth.
ChemotherapyWith chemotherapy, you’ll be given medications that destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing both in and outside of your ovaries. In most cases, chemotherapy is used as a follow-up therapy to surgery.
Radiation TherapyOn rare occasion, radiation therapy will be used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This therapy involves the use of high-energy x-rays.
Remember, if diagnosed, discuss all of your treatment options with your team of physicians so you can choose the right treatment plan for you. For those of you who know someone battling with Ovarian Cancer, your encouragement is always the best medicine. We can also use your help giving this important cancer awareness, so please spread the knowledge and consider donating to the Ovarian Cancer group of your choice.
Carissa Andrews is a passionate author and freelancer from Minnesota with a focus in creative writing.
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