What You Should Know About Ovarian Cancer

Being informed about ovarian cancer treatments

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. With sobering statistics that 1 woman in 75 is diagnosed with ovarian cancer and almost 80-percent of diagnoses occur in later disease stages when prognosis is poor, ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecological cancer.

These statistics in combination with the lack of early detection testing and the disease’s complex biology make it especially important to be vigilant of ovarian cancer risk.

Ovarian Cancer & Its Symptoms

Ovarian cancer is caused by malignant cells found inside, near, or on the outer layer of the ovaries, two small organs responsible for producing female sex hormones and storing eggs. Early detection is difficult, as ovaries are located deep within a woman’s abdominal cavity and symptoms can often be mistaken for other ailments.

Women face higher-than-average ovarian cancer risk if they:

  • Are middle age or older
  • Have a close relative (mother, sister, maternal or paternal grandmother or aunt) diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • Have been identified through genetic testing as having increased risk
  • Have been diagnosed with breast, uterine, colon cancer or endometriosis
  • Are of Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Have never given birth or have faced difficulty becoming pregnant 

Ovarian cancer symptoms are often vague and mistaken for common ailments, leading to later-stage detection; therefore, it is especially critical to pay attention to your body. Talk to your CWC practitioner if any of these signs or symptoms pop up unexplainedly and persist longer than two weeks:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal and/or pelvic pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Experiencing sudden urges to urinate or urinating often
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Constipation or menstrual changes 

Importance of Annual OB/GYN Visits

A yearly exam with your gynecologist is critically important to help defend against ovarian cancer. Women age 18 and older should have an annual vaginal exam; women 35 years and older should consider an annual recto-vaginal exam by their gynecologist to check for abdominal tenderness and abnormal swelling. It’s important to note the PAP test is used as a cervical cancer screen and has no correlation to ovarian cancer detection.

Women who present high risk for ovarian cancer or who experience abnormal pelvic exams benefit from further testing, typically involving the two following tests: A transvaginal sonography ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test. The ultrasound is done by inserting a small instrument into the vagina to detect any abnormalities. The blood test determines levels of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells. It’s important to be aware some ovarian cancers don’t produce enough CA-125 to cause a positive result and some non-cancerous ovary diseases can increase CA-125 levels.   

Your doctor may recommend a biopsy if test results indicate ovarian cancer. Treatment usually involves surgery in combination with chemotherapy prescribed by a gynecologic oncologist.

During your next CWC visit, discuss your family health history and/or any symptoms or concerns you may have regarding ovarian cancer with your gynecologist. An open dialog and proactive mentality play key roles in early detection and treatment.

Moving Forward – Advancements & Treatments

Because of its complexities, understanding and analyzing key factors of ovarian cancer and its origins remain priorities within medical research communities. There are notable progressions and innovations being made in the research and testing done in relation to sequencing, genetics, clinical trial designs and therapies associated with ovarian cancer treatments.

Ovarian cancer researchers are currently studying how to develop a personalized vaccine and over the counter test.

Ongoing research continues regarding the disease’s metastasis, including new tools to analyze micrometastasis and tumor microenvironment, as well as, continual probing into underlying processes driving metastasis.

Recent advancements in genetic testing have been determined to help predict survival and treatment resistance in ovarian cancer patients.

Treatment medications and chemotherapy developments continue to accelerate. In June, Avastin (bevacizumab) was approved by the FDA to be used first with chemotherapy, then by itself, after surgery for advanced ovarian cancer patients. This treatment option has been shown to significantly delay disease progression or death.

Complementary therapies (mindfulness therapy, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, aromatherapy) used in conjunction with standard therapeutic treatments are being researched to help increase quality of life for advanced-stage ovarian cancer patients. 

Talk with your Capital Women’s Care team about your risk factors and to develop a personal plan to optimize your gynecological health.

For more on ovarian cancer and study details, visit http://ovarian.org and  https://ocrfa.org

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.

 

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