Don’t Ig­nore the Sub­tle Signs of Ovar­ian Can­cer

Wellness Update - - Content -

“I am in­spired by work­ing with ovar­ian can­cer pa­tients and watch­ing them ght their bat­tles,” Dr. Richard­son said. “Our pa­tients are very coura­geous and strong. Many of them choose to par­tic­i­pate in clin­i­cal trials be­cause there’s al­ways hope that new drugs will pro­long sur­vival rates and even­tu­ally nd a cure.” “We are al­ways try­ing for re­mis­sion and that is de nitely pos­si­ble with our cur­rent treat­ments,” Dr. Lea added. “Every pa­tient should shoot for that.”

DAL­LAS — It’s called ‘the whis­per­ing can­cer’ and it of­ten goes un­de­tected un­til too late.

“Ovar­ian can­cer is a si­lent killer. It has few early warn­ing signs and those can be non-speci c, like bloat­ing, in­di­ges­tion, nau­sea or weight loss. A wo­man with th­ese symp­toms prob­a­bly won’t think, ‘this could be ovar­ian can­cer,’” said Jayan­thi Lea, MD, a gy­ne­co­logic oncologist at Park­land Health & Hospi­tal Sys­tem and As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Ob­stet­rics & Gy­ne­col­ogy at UT South­west­ern Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Al­though not com­mon – there will be only about 22,000 new cases di­ag­nosed in the U.S. this year, the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety es­ti­mates – ovar­ian can­cer ranks fth in can­cer deaths among women, ac­count­ing for more deaths than any other can­cer in the fe­male re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem. It of­ten goes un­de­tected un­til it has spread within the pelvis and ab­domen. At this late stage, the dis­ease is more dif­fcult to treat and is fre­quently fa­tal.

“Un­for­tu­nately, there is cur­rently no screen­ing test for ovar­ian can­cer,” Dr. Lea said. “Pap smears test for cer­vi­cal can­cer, but do not de­tect ovar­ian can­cer.”

“Women need to be aware of changes in their bodies,” Dr. Lea said. “If a wo­man has pelvic pain or other symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with the dis­ease she should ask her health­care provider to con­sider ovar­ian can­cer and see a spe­cial­ist. The ear­lier this can­cer is found, the bet­ter chance she has for sur­vival.”

De­bra Richard­son, MD, a gy­ne­co­logic oncologist at Park­land and As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Ob­stet­rics & Gy­ne­col­ogy at UT South­west­ern, said she en­cour­ages pa­tients to par­tic­i­pate in clin­i­cal trials test­ing new drugs.

Each about the size of an al­mond, the ovaries pro­duce eggs (ova) as well as the hor­mones es­tro­gen and pro­ges­terone. Symp­toms of ovar­ian can­cer may in­clude ab­dom­i­nal swelling, weight loss, dis­com­fort in the pelvis area, changes in bowel habits, such as con­sti­pa­tion, and a fre­quent need to uri­nate.

Risk fac­tors of the dis­ease in­clude hav­ing the BRCA1 or BRCA 2 gene, early on­set of men­stru­a­tion, late on­set of menopause, a fam­ily his­tory of ovar­ian can­cer, ad­vanc­ing age – most pa­tients are di­ag­nosed at age 60, and no his­tory of preg­nancy. Pro­tec­tive fac­tors that help lower risk in­clude use of birth con­trol pills, breast­feed­ing, tubal lig­a­tion, hysterectomy and preg­nancy.

The Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety rec­om­mends that if you have symp­toms sim­i­lar to those of ovar­ian can­cer al­most daily for more than a few weeks and they can’t be ex­plained by other more com­mon con­di­tions, re­port them to your health­care pro­fes­sional – prefer­ably a gy­ne­col­o­gist – right away.

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