Health Care

Know the Facts About Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer statistics can seem scary. But while ovarian cancer is the deadliest type to affect a woman’s reproductive system, early diagnosis can significantly improve outcomes. In fact, 92% of women survive for more than five years when their ovarian cancer is found and treated early-on.

“It’s really important for women to understand that there are currently no screening modalities for ovarian cancer. This is why it is so important to pay attention to symptoms and to be seen annually by their OB/GYN for pelvic exam and other routine health screenings,” says gynecologic oncologist Robert Holloway, MD, medical director of the gynecologic oncology program at AdventHealth Cancer Institute.

Outside of regular testing, knowing what symptoms to look for and whether you’re at risk, you can act early. The first step to taking control over your health is education.

Know Who’s at Risk for Ovarian Cancer

There’s no way to predict who will get ovarian cancer, though researchers have identified the people most likely to have it. Six factors are associated with ovarian cancer risks, including:

  1. Age: The odds of developing ovarian cancer increase over time. Women ages 63 and older account for half of all ovarian cancer cases
  2. Obesity: For women, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher is considered obese. These women may have a higher risk than women with lower BMIs
  3. Family history: Your risk is higher if you have a first-degree relative — a daughter, sister or mother — who’s had ovarian cancer. A history of the disease in family members on your father’s side is also linked to a higher risk
  4. Personal history: Women who’ve had colorectal, uterine or breast cancer may face a higher risk for ovarian cancer than those who haven’t
  5. Pregnancy: Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 35 or never give birth may have a higher risk. The more children women have, the less prone they are to get ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding may also help lower your risk
  6. Medications: According to some evidence, using estrogen-only hormone therapy after menopause may raise your risk, and conversely use of oral contraceptives during reproductive years lowers risk of ovarian cancer by up to 30%.

Having one or more of these risk factors is a good reason to talk to your provider about ovarian cancer. But whether you fall into one of these categories or not, it’s important to be on the lookout for symptoms, as well.

Know the Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer symptoms are often vague and may not show up until later stages of the cancer. Easy-to-overlook warning signs may include:

  • Belly swelling or bloating with or without weight loss
  • Diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling full quickly
  • Unexplained persistent low back pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

It’s important to know your body and what is and isn’t normal for you. If any of these symptoms are not normal for you and last for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor.

Diagnosing ovarian cancer by even 2 weeks earlier can impact survival, so seek help when these symptoms persist.

Know your family history. A family tree with breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers can be a clue to elevated risk of inherited BRCA genes that predispose to ovarian cancer.

And although screening for this aggressive cancer may still be challenging, there have been leaps and bounds within the field to find new treatment modalities.

“Exciting, new options now exist for patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer. New clinical trials, immunotherapies, leading-edge surgical techniques and novel drugs are being used to treat this disease. Emerging strategies have been improving outcomes for ovarian cancer patients across the board,” says Dr. Holloway.

New Safety Measures in Place When You See Your Doctor

If you’ve been putting off taking care of your health during COVID-19, you should know that getting checked for ovarian cancer is a very important and valid reason to leave the house for a doctor’s visit. While no one can predict the future, one thing is certain: It’s always the right time to take care of you.

We’re here for you and have implemented extraordinary new measures to help keep you safe during your visit, including:

  • Limiting visitors
  • Temperature checks at all facilities and entry points
  • Contactless appointment registration from your car (we can text you when we’re ready for you)
  • Redesigning our facilities for social distancing to keep people 6 feet apart
  • Requiring face mask for all patients, visitors and staff
  • Separating symptomatic and COVID-19 positive patients

We’re Ready When You’re Ready

With the Best Women’s Care in Orlando according to U.S. News and World Report, our physicians are here and ready to help you take proactive steps for cancer prevention and treatment. And it’s our hope that you have peace of mind knowing we’ve taken measures to help keep you safe when you visit us.

To learn more about ovarian cancer screening, detection and treatment, visit AdventHealthCancerInstitute.com/GYN.

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