September – National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                       Ovarian cancer is the eighth most

                      common cancer among women in the United States and

                      the fifth leading cause of cancer death.  A woman’s

                      risk of getting ovarian cancer is 1 in 67, and her

                      risk of dying from it is 1 in 95.  During September,

                      National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, the Illinois

                      Department of Public Health encourages everyone to

                      educate the women in their lives about the symptoms,

                      risk factors, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian

                      cancer.

                      “Many women with ovarian cancer do not experience any

                      symptoms, which makes it difficult to detect and the

                      cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is

                      diagnosed,” said Illinois Department of Public Health

                      Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold.  “Early detection is

                      the key to surviving cancer.  This September, ask the

                      women in your life if they know about ovarian cancer,

                      and if they don’t, tell them it’s important to you

                      that they talk with their health care provider.”

                      Symptoms of ovarian cancer

                      Many times women with ovarian cancer have no

                      symptoms, or just mild symptoms, until the disease is

                      in an advanced stage.  The initial symptoms of

                      ovarian cancer are similar to gastrointestinal

                      illness and indigestion, making the disease hard to

                      diagnose.  Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may

                      include:

                      • general abdominal discomfort and/or pain (gas,

                      indigestion, pressure, bloating, cramps)

                      • nausea, diarrhea, constipation and frequent

                      urination

                      • loss of appetite

                      • feeling full even after a light meal

                      • weight gain or loss with no known reason

                      • abnormal vaginal bleeding

                      It is important to check with a doctor about any of

                      these symptoms.

                      All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older

                      women are more likely to get the disease than younger

                      women.  About 90 percent of women who get ovarian

                      cancer are older than 40 years of age, with the

                      greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60

                      years or older.

                      Risk factors for ovarian cancer

                      The exact causes of ovarian cancer are not known, but

                      the following risk factors may increase the chance of

                      developing this disease:

                      • Family history

                      • Age - most ovarian cancers occur in women 50 years

                      of age or older

                      • Non-childbearing - women who have never had

                      children

                      • Personal history - women who have had breast or

                      colon cancer

                      • Obesity - women who are obese have a higher rate of

                      death from ovarian cancer

                      Diagnosing ovarian cancer

                      Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose and is often

                      diagnosed after the disease is advanced.  Some

                      diagnostic exams and tests you should talk with your

                      health care provider about include:

                      • Pelvic exam

                      • Ultrasound - uses high-frequency sound waves

                      • Blood test

                      • Lower gastrointestinal X-ray series

                      • Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scan

                      • Biopsy - removal of tissue for examination under a

                      microscope

                      There are several ways to treat ovarian cancer.  The

                      treatment depends on the type of ovarian cancer and

                      how far it has spread.  Treatments include surgery,

                      chemotherapy, and/or radiation.

                      “I encourage all women, especially those with a

                      family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer,

                      and those over age 55, to protect their health by

                      knowing the risk factors and discussing possible

                      symptoms, including abdominal pain, with their health

                      care provider,” said Dr. Arnold.