This year, more than 14,000 women will die from the most deadly of all female reproductive system cancers – ovarian cancer. Additionally, it is estimated that more than 21,000 mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and friends in the US will be diagnosed with this terrible disease. During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we encourage all women to speak with their primary care physician about their risk for cancer and, more specifically, to educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and what you can do to reduce your risk for disease.
Because the symptoms of ovarian cancer in the early stages are often subtle and are easily confused with other conditions and because we presently do not have a simple or reliable screening tests for this particular form of cancer, it is often diagnosed in the later stages. Many women mistakenly think that an annual pap test can detect ovarian cancer. It can detect some cancers, but not ovarian.
While we can say very generally that ovarian cancer typically occurs in women over the age of fifty, we have to be very cautious because it does not discriminate; it can strike any women of any race or age at any time. Risk factors include a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, personal history of cancer, women on hormone replacement therapy or who have never been pregnant.
Symptoms, while often confused with other less serious conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, may include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, urinary urgency or frequency, nausea, indigestion, gas, change in bowel habits, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, backaches or weight gain. If any of these symptoms last for more then 2-3 weeks, you should speak with your primary care physician. When you know what is normal for you and if there are changes that are outside your ‘normal,’ it is time to discuss symptoms with a health care professional. When it comes to ovarian cancer, you are your best advocate and you know your body better than anyone else.
Our care team is dedicated to providing each patient with compassionate care and we are here to meet your specific needs. If and when necessary, we coordinate and work with Portneuf Surgical Specialists and the Portneuf Cancer Center, a fully accredited and multidisciplinary cancer team. Collectively, we are able to provide clinical, diagnostic and support to patients before, during and after their services or treatment.
If you need to schedule a routine exam, have symptoms that are concerning or if you need to talk to a physician, please feel free to call my office at 208-232-6100.