Women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing ovarian cancer over the course of their lives, according to the American Cancer Society. Although ovarian cancer can be uncomfortable to think about, having a good knowledge of what to look for and what options a person with the disease has for treatment and recovery are very important. Here are some of the things you really should know about ovarian cancer.
While ovarian cancer is most commonly seen in the 50-65 age group, it can strike a woman at any age. White women are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than African-American women. That being said, any woman can be affected by ovarian cancer.
Getting regular health screenings is an important part of reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. That’s because a problem may be found in a check-up that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Gynecological exams are key to keeping a woman’s reproductive system healthy, and many issues can be detected from these basic check-ups. They aren’t necessarily fun, but they’re an important part of life. Though it's important to note that pap smears and gynecological exams don't screen for ovarian cancer.
Unlike some other types of health issues, there’s no specific and effective screening test for ovarian cancer. There are blood tests, pelvic ultrasounds, and other types of tests that can look for it once it’s suspected, but there aren’t any tests that will screen for it specifically before symptoms alert the patient to a need for further screening.
Women who attend all their regular check-ups, pay attention to their bodies, and work with their healthcare providers to be heard regarding anything they find concerning are more likely to discover cancer when it’s in its early stages and therefore much more treatable.
Most cancers grow relatively slowly, and that means the first symptoms are often subtle. Women may not notice pain and cramps if they’re minor. They might also not notice bloating, or if they do, they may assume it’s based on something they ate or drank.
A change in menstrual periods is also normal, depending on the woman’s age group, so that can be another symptom that gets overlooked. But bloating, discomfort, and abnormal bleeding are all potential symptoms of ovarian cancer. It’s important to have these issues checked out, just to be safe.
Having a family history of certain types of cancers may increase a woman’s likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. Generally, if two or more family members have a history of ovarian, prostate, breast, or pancreatic cancer, a woman may be carrying a gene mutation that might make her more susceptible to the development of ovarian cancer. And while there’s no screening test specifically for the development of this cancer, there is a test for whether a woman carries the gene. Women who carry the gene cannot have that information used against them when trying to get health insurance, currently.
Women who pay attention to their bodily changes over time, and who are open with their doctors about any issues or concerns they have, may be more likely to catch the development of ovarian cancer in the early stages. That may help protect them, and give them the chance to secure treatment before it spreads or becomes more serious. Being proactive saves lives.
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