September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and what you, as a woman, can be on the look-out for. It is the leading cause of death from gynecologic malignancy in the United States. Unfortunately, symptoms are subtle and not always easily recognized; therefore, many women do not receive evaluation early in the disease process.
Symptoms that may be present including bloating, urinary urgency or frequency, difficulty eating or feeling full easily, pelvic or abdominal pain, abdominal distention, nausea, or loss of appetite. As these symptoms can be very subtle or vague, it’s important to be aware if these coexist with one another, occur almost daily, or are more severe than expected.
The strongest known risk factor is a family history. Important to know, a small family size may mask the presence of a hereditable disorder. Things to keep in mind when predicting your risk factors include: a personal history of infertility, +BRCA testing, endometriosis, use of hormone replacement therapy, start of first menstrual period before 10 years of age, late menopause, never having a pregnancy, and history of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Factors associated with a REDUCED risk of ovarian cancer including pregnancy, use of oral contraceptive pills, breastfeeding, tubal ligation, and complete hysterectomy.
How is screening done?
Screening is a way providers can look for early signs of ovarian cancer in women who have no symptoms of the disease. Screening may consist of a blood test called CA 125, an ultrasound, pelvic exam or possibly all three. Blood tests and ultrasound are typically done for women with HIGH RISK for ovarian cancer or suspicious symptoms. A CA 125 blood test is not recommended for just anybody, as the result can be elevated in certain populations based on their ethnicity, smoking status, and medical history.
So, what next?
· Speak to your family about their medical history
· Schedule your next annual well woman exam
· Talk to your provider about your personal risk factors and/or symptoms