September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
In 2022 alone, it’s estimated that 19,880 people will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Furthermore, 12,810 will die of ovarian cancer this year. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths for females and is the most fatal cancer of the female reproductive system. So while other reproductive cancers are more common, ovarian cancer is the most fatal.
The location of the ovaries makes recognizing and diagnosing the cancer difficult. By the time it is detected, it has often spread and become more difficult to treat. Additionally, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be nondescript, or attributed to other more benign causes.
The main reported symptoms of ovarian cancer include pain and bloating in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, and sometimes, weight loss and fatigue. Sometimes, people have no symptoms at all, especially in early stages.
While cervical cancer can be screened for through a PAP smear, evidence of ovarian cancer would not typically be found this way. Universal screening for ovarian cancer is not even recommended for the average risk population. So unless you have a significant family or personal medical history that puts you at risk, it’s unlikely you’ll undergo screening tests (beyond a basic pelvic/abdominal exam) for ovarian cancer.
Right now the screening tests include transvaginal ultrasound if symptoms and/or history warrant this, and a blood test that may or may not help detect the cancer.
Truly, the best “defense” against ovarian cancer right now as a patient is listening to your body and getting regular medical care. Trust your body and speak up when something feels off, especially because the symptoms of ovarian cancer may not feel all that “serious” at the start. Know and discuss your family and personal history with your care providers to ensure they can make the best recommendations for you.
It’s recommended that all females get an annual gynecological exam, where their providers may perform a pelvic exam and evaluate their need for further screening tests as needed. Staying up to date on these exams not only allows the opportunity for the provider to find any potential issues, but also ensures that patients have an ongoing relationship with a provider. Having this relationship and “medical home” so to speak gives patients somewhere to reach out to should any symptoms or concerns arise in between scheduled visits.
At Best Start we aim to be your home for all things OBGYN. Our midwives do routine gynecological exams, prescribe birth control, and treat other gynecological concerns. We don’t want to only see you during your pregnancies, we want you to feel comfortable coming to us for all your concerns in between! Even if it’s not time yet for your regular exam, we are here. Early detection and treatment of any concerns you have are important to us.