September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month! This cancer also shares the month with many other pertinent diseases and awareness. Each year I constantly urge women to know the signs and symptoms of this deadly disease. More than 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and approximately 15,000 women die annually from the disease
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages. This is partly due to the fact that these two small, almond shaped organs are deep within the abdominal cavity, one on each side of the uterus. These are some of the potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- Upset stomach or heartburn
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Constipation or menstrual changes
If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, see your physician.
Persistence of Symptoms
When the symptoms are persistent, when they do not resolve with normal interventions (like diet change, exercise, laxatives, rest) it is imperative for a woman to see her doctor. Persistence of symptoms is key. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only around 19% of ovarian cancer is found in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form.
- A rectovaginal pelvic examination is when the doctor simultaneously inserts one finger in the rectum and one in the vagina.
- It is helpful to take a mild laxative or enema before the pelvic exam.
- Have a comprehensive family history taken by a physician knowledgeable in the risks associated with ovarian cancer. 5% to 10% of ovarian cancer has a familial link.
Every woman should undergo a regular rectal and vaginal pelvic examination. If an irregularity of the ovary is found, alternatives to evaluation include transvaginal sonography and/or tumor markers. The most common tumor marker is a blood test called the CA-125.
Please don’t wait to seek medical help if you feel that any of the above symptoms are prevalent in yourself or your loved ones. Organizations are also available with 24 hour help for information and counseling.
I am currently the Outreach Coordinator for the state of SC for FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered). So please feel free to contact me if you are in the SC area.
Don your Teal this month in support of Ovarian Cancer Awareness…
Awareness and Education go hand in hand
Peace, Love & Empowerment