Yearly examination key to early detection of ovarian cancer

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by Susan Hanna


Almonte General Hospital
 

Every
year in Canada, approximately 2,600 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer,
and 1,750 women die from the disease. Almonte Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr.
Karen Stillman talks about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this
serious disease.

 Who is at risk? – “Any woman can get
ovarian cancer, but those at higher risk include women over 55, women who have
had breast cancer, uterine cancer or colon cancer, and women with a family
history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, colon or rectal cancer or endometrial
cancer,” says Dr. Stillman. “Women who have never had children, women with the
BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations and women with endometriosis are also at higher
risk.”

 What are the symptoms? – “The symptoms
are vague and can be the same as those for a number of other conditions,”
explains Dr. Stillman. “ They can include abdominal pain, pain and pressure in
the back or belly going into the legs, bloating, nausea, constipation,
diarrhea, indigestion and fatigue. The same symptoms can be caused be a thyroid
condition, irritable bowel syndrome, other bowel diseases and endometriosis, to
name a few.”

 How is it diagnosed? – “There is no
screening test for ovarian cancer, so it is very important to see your
physician every year for a pelvic examination, and to see your doctor if you
have symptoms,” stresses Dr. Stillman. “Further investigation can include an
ultrasound and a CA125 blood test.”

 How is it treated? – “If there is a mass
is on the ovary, a gynecologist can remove it surgically or refer the patient
to a gynecologic oncologist, who would conduct other biopsies and tests to
further investigate, and perform the surgery, called a laparotomy,” says Dr.
Stillman. “Surgery for ovarian cancer is usually always followed by
chemotherapy and radiation.”

 How to protect yourself – “Because its
symptoms are vague, early detection of ovarian cancer is difficult,” says Dr.
Stillman. “Every woman should have a yearly physical examination. If you are a
woman over 50, it is extremely important to see your doctor every year for a
well woman checkup, including a pelvic exam, and to see your doctor in between
if you have any new symptoms.”