2009-09-11 / Columnists

SJEH Wellness Corner

Recognizing Ovarian Cancer Month
Commentary By : Paul Liu, MD, Director, Gynecologic Oncology

September is here, which means it is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It's time to encourage the public to learn more about the early symptoms of ovarian cancer. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month promotes education about ovarian cancer to support the continued search for a cure. Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumor that can begin in either one or both ovaries. These tumors are made of abnormal cells that divide and create additional cells at a much faster pace than regular cells. Depending on the progression of the disease, these abnormal cells can invade surrounding tissue and/or travel to other areas of the body.

The Ovarian Cancer Awareness Organization estimates that 21,500 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. In women ages 35 to 74, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. In 2008, approximately 15,500 women died in the United States from ovarian cancer. Approximately 1 in 58 women will develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime and 19 percent of those who actually catch ovarian cancer in its early stages will survive. Those who do get the necessary help have, on average, a five-year survival rate, which is more than 93 percent.

Ovarian cancer, also known as "the silent killer," is the most threatening cancerous disease known to women. The majority of the victims this disease claimed didn't even know they had ovarian cancer. Studies have shown that the four symptoms linked to ovarian cancer include: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary urgency or frequency. Ovarian cancer isn't easily detectable and often enough symptoms are misconstrued to be something else other than cancer.

Many women mistakenly believe that a PAP test will also screen for ovarian cancer. They would be wrong: the PAP test only detects cancer of the cervix, not ovarian cancer. In order to diagnose their symptoms doctors advise women to take the following screening tests: a pelvic exam and transvaginal sonography. The CA-125 Test is a non-specific test where a protein is used as a tumor marker or biomarker, which is a substance that is found in greater concentration of tumor cells than in other cells of the body. Other risk factors to take into consideration include: genetic predisposition; personal or family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer; increasing age, and undesired infertility. Ovarian cancer is not preventable as yet. However, the safest way to ensure your health is to have frequent consultations with your gynecologist and/or whenever you experience any of these symptoms. Regular pelvic exams leading to early treatment may increase one's chances for survival.

For information or to make an appointment with Dr. Paul Liu please call 718-869-7382.

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