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Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Do you know the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Posted by Sharyn Lewin, MD on September 14, 2018


Do you know the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Admittedly, many women don't.
But that's the goal of September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

"It is so important that women know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, because, unfortunately, there is no effective screening tool for it," says Sharyn Lewin, MD, medical director of gynecologic oncology at Holy Name Medical Center’s Patricia Lynch Cancer Center.

In 2018, approximately 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and more than 14,000 will die from it, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

"So the best outcomes for women involve early detection and prevention, if possible," says Dr. Lewin.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

In the very early stages, there may not be any noticeable symptoms. However, the signs most associated with the development of ovarian cancer at any stage of the condition include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain or cramping
  • Feeling full quickly after starting to eat
  • Frequent, urgent urination
  • Abdominal pain and swelling

"You could have just one or a constellation of symptoms, which is why it's so important for women to have yearly check-ups and talk to their doctor about any changes," says Dr. Lewin.

If these symptoms occur on a repetitive basis, an immediate evaluation by a physician, including imaging with a CT scan, is necessary, she advises.

Are You at Greater Risk?

If you have a family or personal history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, you are at a higher risk and genetic testing is key.

"For women who have deleterious mutations in one of the BRCA genes, for example, the national guidelines recommend removing the fallopian tubes and ovaries before cancer has a chance to develop," explains Dr. Lewin.

Ovarian cancer mainly occurs in older women, experts say. About half of women diagnosed are 63 years or older. And it is more common in Caucasians than in African-American women.

Detect Early For Best Outcome

Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer before it has spread have a five-year survival of 93 percent, researchers have found. But detection of ovarian cancer is difficult and often delayed.

"The best outcome for women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer is to be seen and treated by a gynecologic oncologist," says Dr. Lewin. Preferably, she suggests, women should undergo surgery first to remove any visible areas of cancer. This may then be followed by chemotherapy.

"Many studies have shown several excellent options for the chemotherapy regimen, but they require a thorough consultation and planning," says Dr. Lewin. "Today, there are many exciting new treatment options for women to help prevent recurrence and increase survival as well as improve quality of life."

Patricia Lynch Cancer Center

Led by nationally recognized gynecologic oncologist Sharyn Lewin, MD, Holy Name Medical Center's gynecologic oncology services provide advanced medical and surgical treatment for women with cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, as well as for precancerous conditions. Techniques such as gynecologic sentinel node mapping, treatment innovations like intraperitoneal chemotherapy, and proficiency in robotic-assisted surgery, mean that patients receive leading-edge care by physicians who give exquisite attention to their needs, both physical and emotional. Click below for more information, including patient stories, informative videos, and physician contact information: holyname.org/GynecologicOncology/