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The Whispering Disease: Ovarian Cancer

Updated on August 18, 2013

Pay attention to your body.

This particular cancer is the “step-child” of the cancers that affect the female reproductive system. For several reasons, first is because the ovaries are on the inside of our bodies, and second, because ovarian cancer’s symptoms have a tendency to mimic other problems and the possibility of cancer is overlooked. The most effective way to detect this cancer at this time is via a blood test called CA-125, Contrary to popular belief, the only things a PAP test can check for is cervical or uterine cancer, because the doctor is able to scrape cells from those two organs. Since the ovaries are tucked up far inside the body, it’s impossible, at this time, for cells to be scraped from an ovary without some sort of minor surgery involved.

The scary statistics from the Centers for Disease Control is that ovarian cancer accounts for only 3% of all cancers in women, however, it is the leading cause of death of the cancers that affect the female reproductive system. The numbers provided on the CDC website from 2009 show that a little over 20,000 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and of those 20,000 over 14,000 died of the disease. Like most cancers, if caught in the early stages, the survival rate is quite high, similar to the other cancers found in the early stages.

Earlier this year when Angelina Jolie had her double mastectomy, it was more widely publicized that some of the genetic markers for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer are shared. The markers are fairly common within the general population, but the risks are different for each person. If you are female, you have a chance to develop ovarian cancer, however, as with all cancers that chance is higher if you have a family history.

This disease if very close to my heart, my mother passed away a little over eight years ago from this quiet killer. Sad thing is that she had all of the most common symptoms and kept telling the doctors that there was something more wrong, since she didn’t have a regular doctor and had no choice but to use the Government run Indian Health Clinics, so there wasn’t consistent care to be able to catch this dreaded disease sooner, and each of the doctors she saw were not listening to her until someone finally took the time to look at her chart. By that time she was stage 4, and at that point it was only a matter of time before her body got tired of fighting the cancer.

The symptoms for ovarian cancer are varied, but the most common are bloating, tenderness in lower abdomen, back pain, vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal, especially if you have already reached menopause, feeling full quickly while eating, a change in bathroom habits in both urination and bowel movements. As you can see from the symptoms, ovarian cancer could be mistaken for any number of other problems, and usually goes undetected until the latter stages when treatment isn’t very effective.

At this time, if a woman wants to be tested for ovarian cancer, it is done at her own expense. Insurance companies will not cover it, they don’t feel it’s a necessity. The government health care will have the same attitude as well.

Everyone, both men and women, need to listen to what our bodies are telling us, then talk openly and honestly with our physicians, and if they don’t want to listen, we need to be pro-active enough to try and make them listen, or find another doctor, even as much of a hassle as that would be.

We have to be the advocates for our own health, because at this point, no one else is going to.


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