Did you know September is ovarian cancer awareness month?
Pink ribbons are everywhere for October’s breast cancer awareness, so why isn’t ovarian cancer just as public? One reason is because, unfortunately, there are fewer survivors. Most ovarian cancer isn’t caught until stage 3, and the five-year survival rate for a stage 3 diagnosis is 39%.
Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Because the symptoms often mimic a stomach ache and are assumed to be temporary, most women don’t recognize them and go months without seeing a doctor. By the time they are eventually diagnosed (if they even get diagnosed) with the disease, it has often already spread to surrounding organs. I wrote an earlier post here on how ovarian cancer affected my mom and ultimately took her life too soon. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer awareness was minimal when my family needed it the most.
With the help of Sydney at ConsumerSafety.org, this post is being made to get the word out on ovarian cancer so this deadly disease can come to an end.
Here are a few more key statistics about ovarian cancer:
- Ovarian cancer is the #1 cause of gynecologic cancer deaths
- Women have a 1 in 75 chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime
- Half the women who develop ovarian cancer are over the age of 60
- Around 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year
- Every 23 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States
Does a Pap test detect ovarian cancer?
No, pap smears are done to detect cervical cancer.
So what test DOES detect ovarian cancer?
As of now, there is no definitive screening test for ovarian cancer. However, current helpful screenings are regular pelvic exams, reporting any symptoms early, having a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test. Unfortunately, the ultrasound and CA-125 blood test are not recommended for diagnosing ovarian cancer. The CA-125 blood test gives too many false readings (and is only used as a screening tool for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer to see if treatment is working), and screening with transvaginal ultrasounds does not reduce the number of deaths caused by this disease.
What are the symptoms?
Unfortunately, they aren’t clear-cut. My mom, who survived two years with ovarian cancer, simply thought she was enduring a stomach ache that wouldn’t go away. Below are some of the most frequently cited symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Constipation or menstrual changes
What will increase my risk of getting ovarian cancer?
- Having a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Being post-menopausal
- Not having any children
- Over age 40
- Obesity, or a BMI of at least 30
- Taking fertility medication
- Having excess or supplementing with male hormones or androgens
- Taking estrogens (without progesterone) after menopause
Obviously, we cannot control all of our risk factors. Many of them are beyond our control. It’s important to carefully consider every health decision you make because it may affect your reproductive health as well.
How do I reduce my risk of getting ovarian cancer?
Here’s some helpful information:
In addition to the infographic above, you can reduce your risk by:
- Being pregnant, as well as breastfeeding (an increased number or pregnancies and sustained breastfeeding decreases the risk for ovarian cancer)
- Not using talcum powder on or near your genitals
- Tying off the fallopian tubes (getting your “tubes tied”) or having a complete hysterectomy
- If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancers, performing genetic testing will give you the information that you and your doctor might need to make educated health choices in your future.
Get the word out to your female friends and family, so they too will learn about ovarian cancer awareness. Learning the symptoms of ovarian cancer can save your life or the life of a loved one. Let’s do everything we can to end this silent, and too often deadly, disease.
Happy (and healthy) Travels!
Many thanks to Sydney at ConsumerSafety.org who helped with this post. Here’s a link ConsumerSafety.org’s charitable cause, Hope for Heather, a 100% volunteer charity, promoting ovarian cancer awareness.
For further information and charitable causes, click on the following links:
sources: consumersafety.org, cancer.org