Ovarian cancer is the silent cancer, often undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. Women who are post-menopause, who have never had children, who have unexplained infertility, or who had their first child after age 30 may be at increased risk for this cancer. Women who have used estrogen alone as hormone replacement therapy are also at increased risk. Women with a personal or family history of hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), ovarian cancer, or breast cancer are also more likely to have this disease. Women who do not have any of these increased risk factors can still get ovarian cancer.
What you can do
At this time, there are no good tests for detecting ovarian cancer early. A Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer, but there are some tests that may be useful for women who have a high risk of developing ovarian cancer. You should see a doctor right away if you have:
- Ongoing abdominal (belly) swelling
- Digestive problems (including gas, loss of appetite, and bloating)
- Abdominal pain
- A feeling like you need to urinate all the time
- Pelvic pain
- Back pain
- Leg pain.
A pelvic exam should be part of a woman’s regular health exam. Also talk to a doctor about your risk for ovarian cancer and whether there are tests that may be right for you.
The best defense against cancer
- Early detection – finding a cancer early, before it has spread – gives you the best chance to do something about it. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do may save your life.
- Take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk.
- Stay away from tobacco.
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- Get moving with regular physical activity.
- Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all).
- Protect your skin.
- Know yourself, your family history, and your risks.
- Have regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.
Article submitted by: Dr. Mary Koshy, Radiation Oncologist