It is difficult to detect ovarian cancer soon. Symptoms may mimic other conditions and you may not have any. In addition, doctors and gynecologists do not have reliable screening tests to find the first signs of the disease. These are the main reasons why women are diagnosed ovarian cancer when it is in stage I or II, before it spreads much, only about 20% of the time.
But you can do things to take care of your health. Find out what symptoms you should be aware of so you can have your doctor or gynecologist check them out. And find out what things put women at high risk for the disease, so you can get preventative treatments if necessary. This is what two doctors who treat gynecological cancers want you to know about detecting ovarian cancer as soon as possible.
Talk if you have symptoms
Sometimes ovarian cancer does not cause any symptoms early, especially during the first stage of the disease. That was when cancer it is limited to one or both ovaries, which store eggs and make female hormones estrogens and progesterone.
“There is a lot of space in the abdomen for the ovary to grow “when a cancerous tumor forms,” says Leslie Boyd, MD, director of NYU Langone’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology. “It simply came to our notice then stage I ovarian cancer it’s a pretty quiet disease. “
Katherine Kurnit, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Chicago, agrees. Generally, she says, women begin to have symptoms when the cancer begins to spread, pushing on other structures or invading other parts of the body.
However, it is possible to have symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Some of them are:
- Pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- Feeling full quickly when eating
- An urgent or frequent need to urinate
Talk to your primary care physician or gynecologist if you have symptoms like this, especially if they are new to you and do not go away, says Kurnit. Since ovarian cancer can cause nonspecific problems, such as gastrointestinal or intestinal problems, keep in mind that it is usually misdiagnosed as gastrointestinal or intestinal problems, Kurnit and Boyd say.
If you get treatment for one of these conditions and the symptoms persist for two or more weeks, follow up with another doctor or your gynecologist. A pelvis ultrasound it’s a quick test that can provide your gynecologist with a lot of information about what’s happening to you, Boyd says.
Find out what can put you at risk
There are several things that increase the chances of getting ovarian cancer, such as aging. The disease is rare when you are under 40 years old. It is much more common when you are 63 years old or older. Most often it starts after menopause.
Boyd and Kurnit say two key things put you at high risk of getting the disease: the medical history of your close family and certain genetic changes or “mutations.”
If you have a first-degree relative like a sister or mother who has had ovarian cancer, your chances of getting the disease increase, Kurnit says. Have a close relative you have had Lung cancer it can also be a risk factor, she says.
Hereditary mutations in genes called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are also linked to an increased risk of ovarian and other cancers. The way to find out if you have any of the mutations is to test your genes. You can ask your doctor or gynecologist if genetic testing it may be right for you. If so, you may be referred to a genetic counselor.
“The preferred way to identify someone at high risk or with any of these genetic mutations that puts them at risk for family cancers is to make a consultation with a genetic counselor,” Boyd says. “They can go through the risks and benefits of getting the genetic tests and then proceed with the tests if it makes sense for that patient.”
If you decide to take genetic testing, an advisor can also help you explain your results. “Sometimes it’s very difficult to understand what it means to have a gene mutation for someone who isn’t in the medical field or for someone who isn’t so familiar with it,” Kurnit says.
If you are diagnosed with a mutation in one of your BRCA genes, the counselor can tell you how it affects the risk of ovarian and other cancers. They can also tell you the best way to share information with the siblings you have, “both men and women, who would also be at a potentially higher risk of developing cancer syndromes,” Kurnit says.
There is also direct genetic testing on the consumer. Boyd says trying to interpret the results on your own without the help of a counselor could be daunting, though.
If you learn that you have a high risk of ovarian cancer, your doctor or gynecologist will closely monitor your health and explain what preventive treatments may be right for you, as well as the risks and benefits of each.
What to do if you have a medium risk
Doctors would love to do an accurate screening test to detect ovarian cancer before symptoms appear, but it doesn’t exist. Tests like the Pap test for cervical cancer they are not effective in finding signs of early ovarian cancer. For now, the U.S. Prevention Services Working Group recommends that doctors not routinely analyze women at medium risk who show no symptoms.
However, says Boyd, “it is always a good idea to maintain a relationship with the gynecologist throughout the stages of life. And certainly in the post-menopausal period, you have the highest risk of developing the most common gynecological cancers. ”
Kurnit agrees. “Many times women think that after going through menopause they no longer need to see a gynecologist.” She recommends that you continue to receive all of your recommended gynecological care and routine checkups with your regular doctor.
It may give you some spirit to know that your overall risk of ovarian cancer is “pretty low,” Boyd says. The odds you get during your lifetime are about 1 in 78, or 1.3%.
If you have ovarian cancer, the treatments help people live better and longer than before, she says.