Ovarian cancer has always been thought of as a symptomless disease but research has shown this to be untrue. There ARE symptoms, unfortunately they may be so subtle that they are attributed to other benign conditions.
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance conducted a survey in which 89% of women were unaware of ovarian cancer symptoms before being diagnosed. However, 81% of the respondents realize in hindsight that symptoms existed before diagnosis, with these symptoms being confused with irritable bowel syndrome, pre-menopause, stress, acid reflux, endometriosis, gall bladder issues or other ailments.
Correct diagnoses occur only slightly more often than incorrect diagnoses. Only 59% of women are correctly diagnosed, but at least 41% of women are treated for other conditions before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
These are scary statistics considering the advances made in early detection and pre-screening tools used to detect other forms of cancer.
It is time to BREAK THE SILENCE and educate yourself and the women you love!
There are NO effective pre-screening tools for ovarian cancer and a pap smear will NOT detect it.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women.
In 2014, it is estimated that 22,980 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 14,270 women will die from the disease.
Approximately 174,236 women living in the United States currently have ovarian cancer or have a history of ovarian cancer. Women are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 44% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region. Despite aggressive surgical intervention and new chemotherapeutic regimens, the overall 5-year survival rate for women with advanced stage ovarian cancer has remained constant over the past 30 years, at approximately 15%. However, when ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
The symptoms are generally subtle and vague so that women ignore them.The key is that the symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks and are otherwise unexplained. 90% of women with ovarian cancer reported having some of the following symptoms:
Increasing waist line size, for no obvious reason.
Digestive problems: gas, flatulence, bloating, loss of appetite, occasionally abdominal pain.
Abdominal pressure or discomfort.
Changes in bowel and bladder habits (e.g. urinary frequency, diarrhea, constipation).
Pain (less common) in the lower back, pelvis or legs.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Unusual fatigue or backaches.
Unexplained weight loss or gain.
Shortness of breath.
There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer. Screening is not recommended for all women, but is recommended for women with symptoms of ovarian cancer and women at high risk (e.g. women with a family history or women with the BRCA-1 or 2 genetic mutations). However, ovarian abnormalities can often be detected on a routine pelvic exam, with a screening vaginal ultrasound, or with a CA125. Blood levels of CA-125 are elevated in about 50% of women with early ovarian cancer and about 80% of those with advanced disease. The only way to confirm the diagnosis, however, is with an ovarian biopsy.
Researchers have identified certain risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of developing ovarian cancer. However, studies also show that most women with these risk factors never develop the disease, while many women who do develop the disease possess no risk factors. The risk factors for ovarian cancer may include:
Never having been pregnant.
Hormone replacement therapy.
Family or personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. About 7% of ovarian cancer cases have a strong hereditary component. If you have a first degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with ovarian cancer, your risk of ovarian cancer increases to 5%; if you have 2 first degree relatives with ovarian cancer your risk becomes 7%.
Family or personal history of BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genetic mutation. In women with BRCA 1 genetic mutations (and to a lesser extent, BRCA-2), risk of ovarian cancer is 16%–44%. These mutations are also associated with earlier onset of the disease.
Other genetic mutations, such as Lynch Syndrome and other’s just being identified.
Women who began menstruating before age 12 or reached menopause after age 50.
Having had breast cancer, particularly before age 50.
Factors that REDUCE ovarian cancer risk:
Surgical removal of the ovaries AND fallopian tubes.
Taking birth control pills: The Cancer and Steroid Hormone Study (CASH), the largest investigation to date, found an average 40% decrease in the likelihood of ovarian cancer in women who had ever taken birth control pills. The protective effect was observed with as little as 3 to 6 months of use, and persisted for 15 years beyond discontinuation of the pill. Another study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (8/1/00), found that oral contraceptive pills containing lower doses of estrogen and progestin also cut a woman’s ovarian cancer risk by 40 percent – the same risk reduction provided by higher dose pills.