September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

How much do you know about ovarian cancer? Do you know it's the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women? September 1 kicks off National Ovarian Cancer Month.  

As we talk about awareness, perhaps the number one thing to understand would be the awareness that ovarian cancer is not always a silent killer. There are often symptoms that appear months before patients have a diagnosis. The problem is that these are usually vague symptoms like bloating, indigestion, and/or abdominal pain -- symptoms women often have for a variety of reasons including menstruation, digestive issues, and pregnancy, among others. 

Knowing one's body and how and why it reacts certain ways to certain foods, activities, or situations can be the key to early diagnosis. If you experience the symptoms above persistently for two weeks, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Strebel or Dr. Grolle to see what's going on. 

There is no known cause of ovarian cancers, but researchers believe 10 to 15 percent are caused by a genetic mutation that could be detected. Another cause likely has something to do with lack of ovulation of the ovaries. Women most at risk are those with a family history of ovarian cancer, infertility, and endometriosis. 

 Research has shown that five years of use of oral contraceptives or birth control pills can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 50 percent. If a patient has a strong family history - a mother, sister, or daughter - with ovarian cancer or breast cancer, they should consider genetic counseling to see if they have a genetic defect that predisposes them to it. 

 Screenings are important, but, currently, there is no pap smear screening for ovarian cancer. Researchers are struggling to find a good screening test for ovarian cancer. Ultrasound and CA-125 blood tests have been effective in certain patients, but not across the board for all patients. Many doctors and researchers agree that understanding the human genome is key to finding not only better treatments but also understanding the cause and better prevention of ovarian cancer.