Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day.
Ovarian cancer has been coined, “the Silent Killer” because it’s symptoms and early warning signs are so vague and are symptoms that can also be caused by other, much milder issues. Spreading awareness of this disease is incredibly important so that these symptoms, that seem harmless enough, will begin to be taken more seriously in the hopes that the cancer can be detected in its earliest stages.
WHAT IS OVARIAN CANER?
Ovarian cancer.org supplies this definition: “Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries
(women’s reproductive glands that produce ova). Cancer that spreads to the ovaries
but originates at another site is not considered ovarian cancer.
Ovarian tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Although abnormal, cells of benign tumors do not metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).
Malignant cancer cells in the ovaries can metastasize in two ways:
- directly to other organs in the pelvis and abdomen (the more common way)
- through the bloodstream or lymph nodes to other parts of the body
While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, some theories exist.
- genetic errors may occur because of the repeated “wear and tear” of the monthly release of an egg.
- increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.”
STAGES OF OVARIAN CANCER:
Stage 1: The cancer is limited to one or both ovaries.
Stage 2: The tumor involves one or both ovaries and extends to other pelvic
Stage 3: The tumor involves one or both ovaries, and/or the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen; the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 4: Growth of the cancer involves one or both ovaries and distant metastases to the liver or lungs have occurred.
The relative five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 44.2 percent. Survival rates vary greatly depending on the stage of diagnosis. Women diagnosed at an early stage—before the cancer has spread—have a much higher five-year survival rate than those diagnosed at a later stage.
Keeping up with regular women’s health exams is important. The Pap test is effective in early detection of cervical cancer, but it isn’t a test for ovarian cancer. Rarely, ovarian cancers are found through Pap tests, and when they are, they are usually at an advanced stage. So while keeping up with regular women’s health exams is most certainly important for the prevention and early detection of other diseases, they aren’t incredibly effective in the early detection of ovarian cancer.
The best and most effective way to detect ovarian cancer is to be aware of your own body and pay attention to anything different. Picking up on the symptoms of ovarian cancer is the best detection. Unfortunately, the symptoms are very vague, which is why this ovarian cancer is often called the silent killer. So make sure you pay attention to what is going on with your body. Key in to the signals your body gives you that something is wrong (pain, fatigue, changes in mood & appetite, irregularities in urination or bowel movements, skin rashes or irritations). These are al your bodies way of signaling a change or a disruption and the warnings should be heeded, especially when they become chronic.
Abdominal swelling or bloating (due to a mass or a buildup of fluid),
Pelvic pressure or abdominal pain,
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly,
Urinary symptoms (having to go urgently or often).
*Most of these symptoms can also be caused by other less serious conditions. What is most important is that they are a change in how you usually feel. I know for most women (and for me), I avoid going to the doctor unless it is time for a yearly exam or something is very wrong. Nine out of ten times when I visit the doctor I am told it is something common that will resolve itself in a few days. I leave feeling frustrated because, one, I just wasted a whole day sitting in a doctor’s office for nothing and two, now I can look forward to a crazy doctor bill for no reason. In light of the importance of early detection in the case of a disease like ovarian cancer, however, it is worth the potentially wasted time and money in exchange for a solid peace of mind.
Check out these links for more on early detection and the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
> The American Cancer Societies Prevention Checklist for Women
> Dr. Oz’s one-sheet to help you detect the early warning signs of ovarian cancer
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, about 21,290 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 14,180 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States.
“Ovarian cancer accounts for approximately three percent of cancers in women.
While the 11th most common cancer among women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers. Mortality rates are slightly higher for Caucasian women than for African-American women.” -ovariancancer.org
Ovarian cancer rates are highest in women aged 55-64 years.
Approximately 15 percent of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early with early stage disease.
Watch this inspirational story of triumph over ovarian cancer. Dr. Lisa Anzisi shares her journey from diagnosis, treatment, survival and advocacy! She gives a very clear explanation of ovarian cancer, it’s signs and symptoms and the importance for early detection.
HELPFUL LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Check out this link from cancer.org to learn more about ovarian cancer, what it is, the different types of ovarian cancer as well as causes, risk factors and prevention.
Check out this link for a great statistical chart as well as a helpful guide through the four different stages of ovarian cancer from ovarian cancer.org.
Check out this link for ovarian cancer facts and types as well as more information on prevention, symptoms and treatment from mdanderson.org.
Share this post with all of the women in your life! Let’s create awareness for this horrible disease and begin to promote early detection of this silent killer!
Learn more about World Ovarian Cancer Day and what you can do to promote awareness at ovariancancerday.org