to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than
20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer
each year. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and
physicians want to raise awareness in the hopes of helping
spur earlier diagnoses.
are several types of ovarian cancer, which can include cancer
of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the lining of the
peritoneum. While anyone can be at risk, ovarian cancer is
most common in women over age 50 and those women who are known
carriers of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes.
majority of ovarian cancer is sporadic but it is the
fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths, due in part to the
challenges with early diagnosis," says Dr. Carrie
Langstraat, gynecologic surgeon at Mayo Clinic.
Abdominal bloating or stomach ache
feeling of fullness after eating
are common symptoms that women often chalk up to other things
and then they aren’t diagnosed until the cancer has
progressed," Langstraat says. "I always encourage
women to follow up with their physician if their symptoms
persist. The earlier we can diagnose ovarian cancer, the
better we can treat it."
and a blood test, known as a CA 125, may be useful in helping
to determine a diagnosis. However, Dr, Langstraat says, there
is not a great screening tool for ovarian cancer.
women with BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations, who are at higher risk
for ovarian cancer, a CA 125 test may be effective in looking
for early signs," she explains. "But overall, it is
not accurate enough to use for ovarian cancer screening in all
women since other things, including menstruation, can increase
the CA 125 level. We would like to see a better screening
testing for everyone."
the nature of the disease, Langstraat notes that a majority of
women have a recurrence. "But new treatments are coming
down the line that will hopefully contribute to a decreased
risk of recurrence," she says.
clinical studies are underway looking at vaccines designed to
prevent the recurrence of ovarian cancer.
hope is that soon we will have a better screening test for
everyone and then be able to cure more patients up
front," says Langstraat. "But in the meantime, I
tell my patients to stay vigilant and be an advocate for