Article provided by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
Ovarian cancer is a growth of malignant cells that begins in a woman’s ovaries. There is no early detection test or a cure, which makes ovarian cancer the deadliest disease of the female reproductive system. When detected and treated early, the five year survival rate is greater than 90%. However, fewer than 20% of women are diagnosed in the early stages because the symptoms are often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Until there is a detection test, awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms is a woman’s best defense.
Many people do not know that ovarian cancer has symptoms in the majority of women who develop the disease including:
• pelvic and abdominal pain;
• difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and
• urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Additional symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities, although these symptoms are found equally in women without the disease. See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks. Experts suggest a combination pelvic/rectal exam, a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test.
Approximately 22,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008 and about 15,000 women will die from the disease. Women need to know if they may be at a higher risk for ovarian cancer, and if so, what actions to take. Factors that increase risk include:
• increasing age,
• personal or family history of ovarian cancer,
• breast or colon cancer, and
• never having been pregnant or given birth to a child.
Still, all women are at risk. In fact, 90% of women diagnosed do not have a family history that might put them at a higher risk.
More research is needed to develop an early detection test and a cure. There is no reliable and easy-to-administer early detection test for ovarian cancer (as there is for cervical cancer with a Pap test). Ovarian cancer research is drastically under-funded.