Sometimes called the disease that whispers, ovarian cancer symptoms are often not recognized until its late stages when it is most deadly. Found early, ovarian cancer is 90 percent curable but most cases are found after the cancer is already advanced.
President Bush has proclaimed September 2008 ass National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. During September, advocates will be working to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, let women know about its symptoms, and work toward early detection and effective treatment.
Although there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, being aware of its symptoms and following up with a CA-125 blood test, transvaginal ultrasound, and rectal/vaginal pelvic exam can find ovarian cancer early when it is most treatable. Pap smears are not a test for ovarian cancer, and the CA-125 blood test does not effectively screen for it alone.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
When these occur for more than two weeks and are a new occurrence for a woman, a visit to a gynecologist for further testing can help find ovarian cancer so it can be treated.
Recent research has found that combining a simple four point questionnaire about symptoms combined with the CA-125 blood test will find 80 percent of early stage ovarian cancer and 95 percent of late-stage disease.
Women with Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC) have about a 10 percent lifetime risk for ovarian cancer. Guidelines suggest that women with a Lynch syndrome mutation begin annual screening for ovarian cancer between 25 and 35 years of age and consider preventive removal of their ovaries and uterus after they finish childbearing.
More information about ovarian cancer is available from:
- National Cancer Institute: Ovarian Cancer
- National Ovarian Cancer Coalition including a short video.
- Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
- Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research
If you have more questions about ovarian cancer you can call the SHARE Ovarian Cancer Hotline at (866)537-4273.
Kicking off National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, the Seventh Biennial Ovarian Cancer Research Symposium will be held in Seattle on September 4-5, 2008 at the Marsha Rivkin Center.