Ovarian Cancer Screenings
When ovarian cancer is found early, nearly 95 percent of patients live five years or longer after diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society, yet only about 20 percent of cases are detected early. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so you might be seeing more people wearing teal and sharing the sometimes-subtle signs of ovarian cancer. These can include bloating, pelvic/abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency or frequency.
“Knowledge is power, and the more you pay attention to shifts in how you are feeling and the more you communicate with your doctor, the better,” said Dr. David Clay
In addition to pelvic exams, the most common screenings for women at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer include:
- A transvaginal ultrasound that uses sound waves to examine the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. This test can help find a mass, but it will not determine whether it is benign or not.
- The CA-125 blood test, which measures a protein called CA-125 in the blood, something that is often elevated in women with ovarian cancer. High levels of this protein are also linked with other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis, so the two tests are often performed in combination.
Regular exams and paying attention to your body are critical in the fight against ovarian cancer, which is the eleventh most common type of cancer among women by the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Sometimes your doctor can detect tumors when palpating the ovaries and uterus during an annual exam, although many are hard to feel in the early stages. Regardless, these exams can help you and your doctor stay on top of your health and any conditions. While the Pap test is effective in detecting cervical cancer, it is not a test for ovarian cancer. Beyond advancing age, risk factors include infertility, endometriosis, breast cancer or a BRCA mutation, genetic predisposition and hormone replacement therapy post-menopause.
“As we advocate for further research and support patients and families, education is still the best line of defense. Whether it is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month or any other month, listen to your body, pay attention to changes and please let us know if you have any concerns,” added Clay.