September Is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Ovarian cancer is a complex disease, perhaps even more so than other cancers impacting women such as breast or cervical. On the one hand, it is considered a “rare” cancer, affecting less than 200,000 women in the United States each year. On the other, ovarian cancer is among those that are difficult to detect. This is especially true for those women are not aware of whether they are at risk or not.
With breast cancer, which is far more common, women are encouraged to perform self-breast examinations to detect early warning signs. However, unlike breast cancer, ovarian cancer is insidious. The following are some basic facts we recommend that female patients (and those close to them) keep in mind.
Ovarian cancer rarely manifests in obvious symptoms early on. Advanced-stage cases might exhibit abdominal bloating, weight loss, pelvic discomfort, constipation, or a frequent need to urinate. However, it’s important that women—especially those considered at risk for this disease—do not wait for these symptoms to appear before addressing their health concerns.
Because symptoms are difficult to spot and often nonexistent, it’s important to schedule a consultation with your physician to discuss your level of risk. You possess a heightened risk for ovarian cancer if:
- You’re over the age of 50
- You inherited the gene mutations breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), or other gene mutations such as Lynch syndrome
- You have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer
- You had estrogen hormone replacement therapy
- You started menstruation at an early age or menopause at a late age
None of these risk factors is a definitive cancer sentence. However, if you have anything in common with this list, it’s a good idea to start a discussion with your doctor today.
Just because ovarian cancer is rarer than other cancers among women doesn’t make it less dangerous to those who have it. Ovarian cancer is treatable, but the American Cancer Society reports that more than 14,000 women in the U.S. will die from this disease in 2018. The risk of developing ovarian cancer is about 1 in 78, and dying from it is about 1 in 108. It’s crucial to address both symptoms and risk factors as soon as possible by opening the lines of communication with your physician.
Find out more about women’s pelvic exams and other women’s health services at Pacific Family Practice.