Early detection of ovarian cancer

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September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

It’s estimated that more than 22,000 U.S. women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer this year, and more than 14,000 women will die from the cancer. Although ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers among women, survival rates are highest when cancer is found at an early stage.

The deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, the cause of most ovarian cancers is still unknown, but recent findings indicate that the most common form of ovarian cancer starts in the Fallopian tubes instead of the ovary itself. Doctors say the key to survival is early diagnosis.

Early warning signs and detection

When it comes to early warning signs of ovarian cancer, many women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms show up as subtle, persistent changes in their body. Bloating, pelvic and abdominal pain, urgency or frequency of urination and feeling full quickly after eating can be warning signs of ovarian cancer.

“Unfortunately, there is not a reliable way to be screened for ovarian cancer now, but paying attention to symptoms and knowing your family history play a key role in early detection,” said Dr. James Ferriss, gynecologic oncologist at Dell Seton Medical Center. “If a woman has a family history of breast or ovarian cancers, it is vital that she speak with her provider about her options.”

If a woman experiences an abnormal change in her body that persists more than a few days, Ferriss says it’s important talk to a doctor and consider specialty tests such as a trans-vaginal ultrasound or CA-125 blood test.

If ovarian cancer is detected early, the chance of survival is very high, around 90 percent. Since early detection of ovarian cancer can be a challenge, and symptoms often overlap with other medical conditions, it’s important for women to listen to their bodies and seek evaluation if needed. Studies have shown that women treated by a gynecologic oncologist have the best chances of survival.