A woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer
Years ago doctors used to believe that only older menopausal women could get ovarian cancer. Now we know that all women can be at some risk, even those as young as their early 20s.
Ovarian cancer is the number one cause of gynecological cancer deaths, killing 14,000 women every year. Because the symptoms are so subtle a woman may have cancer and not be diagnosed until it has progressed to an advanced stage. As you might suspect with early detection the survival rate increases dramatically. Knowing your risk and knowing the subtle symptoms of this cancer can lead to early detection and early detection saves lives.
THE RISK FACTORS
Family history If you have or had a female relative from either side of your family diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your risk increases.
Obesity If you have a Body Mass Index of over 30, your risk increases.
If you have a history of using fertility drugs or hormone replacement therapy your risk increases.
Even your reproductive history plays a role. If you had children after age 35 or never had children, your risk increases.
The SYMPTOMS as you can see below are subtle, often explained by other causes and unfortunately neglected, until the cancer may be in an advanced stage.
Ovarian cancer, and other conditions which require medical attention, may have symptoms which include: fatigue, prolonged stomach upset, back pain, constipation, pain during sex, menstrual changes, abdominal swelling with weight loss. If you have symptoms that persist, or reoccur on a regular basis, be sure to speak to your health care practitioner about them. With increased awareness woman are better prepared to have frank and open discussions with their doctors.
Complicating early diagnosis even more is that obtaining a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer is not simple, nor easy. If a woman has the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, her doctor will likely perform a pelvic exam, a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test (which tests for the presence of a specific protein used as a marker for ovarian cancer). Having only one or two of these tests might not determine ovarian cancer, but used in combination with each other are the most effective way to diagnosis ovarian cancer. Doctors may also use a CT or PET scan as part of the diagnostic process. Ultimately the only definitive way to determine if a woman has or does not have ovarian cancer is through surgery and a biopsy.
There are many factors which influence how ovarian cancer is treated and each woman has to discuss all treatment decisions with their medical professional. The standard treatment consists of surgically removing all visible tumors followed by a course of chemotherapy. This has been shown to be the most effective treatment to date. Other treatments may include radiation therapy or other medications.
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-by Dr Denise Jablonski-Kaye