We now take a break from our usual 7 Quick Takes for a public service announcement.
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has an excellent educational website. Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages. Your ovaries, small almond-shaped organs, are located deep in your abdominal cavity, one on each side of the uterus. Only approximately 19% of ovarian cancer is found in the early stages because the potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and it is only when tumor growth is advanced that pressure is created on the bladder and rectum and fluid begins to build up in your abdomen and pelvis.
Symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly (known as early satiety) and feeling the need to urinate urgently or frequently, fatigue, upset stomach or heartburn, back pain, pain during sex (known as dyspareunia), constipation, or changes in your regular menstrual cycle.
It is reasonable to try to manage these symptoms with diet change, exercise, laxatives, etc. After all, who hasn’t been constipated or had back pain? All of these symptoms are fairly common but the key lies in their frequency.
If any of these symptoms, alone or in combination, persist for longer than two weeks or for more than 15 days out of any 30 you should see your gynecologist.
The best tool for detection is a thorough physical examination including a rectovaginal pelvic exam (your gynecologist will simultaneously insert one finger in the rectum and one in the vagina). While it is important to have regular Pap smears, Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer. Nothing can replace a thorough physical examination.
If any irregularity of the ovary is found then additional testing can include a transvaginal ultrasound and/or tumor markers (most commonly a CA-125).
If you’ve already seen a doctor and received a diagnosis other than ovarian cancer, yet your symptoms continue or you are not getting relief from treatment, schedule a follow-up visit with your gynecologist or get a second opinion. If you have a history of breast, colon and/or ovarian cancer in your family, strongly consider seeing a doctor trained to care for women with ovarian and other gynecologic cancers, a gynecologic oncologist, to talk about the symptoms and regular screenings. If your primary care physician or gynecologist suspects you have ovarian cancer, he or she may refer you to a gynecologic-oncologist.
The best predictor for long-term survival and potential cure is to have your primary surgery with appropriate staging performed by a board-certified gynecologic oncologist.
An excellent resource for finding board-certified gynecologic oncologists is the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists. Go to the “Patients, Families, & Survivors” tab and click on the “finding a gynecologic oncologist” link.
Many women being treated for newly diagnosed or even recurrent or persistent ovarian cancer participate in clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies which are designed to find ways to improve patient health and cancer care. Studies are designed to answer specific scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. Through participation, trial participants may receive access to new and investigational therapy options that are not available to patients outside of the clinical trial setting.
You can find clinical trials at www.clinicaltrial.gov which is a database and registry run by the US National Institutes of Health.
So, how do we support ovarian cancer research at our house? The Spare and I are participating in our local NOCC walk tomorrow. Well, I’m doing the walk and the Spare is doing the 5K. Since he’s participating in Cross Country again, this is a good opportunity for him to get in his usual Saturday workout/practice in a timed setting.
We now return to our regularly scheduled 7 Quick Takes
The Heir participated in his Senior retreat this past Sunday and Monday. Of course, he complained bitterly about having to go and it seems everyone came back with some type of cold, but he seems to have appreciated it. Parents were required to write a letter to their child which was given out at the retreat (privately, nothing was shared publicly). It was nice to put down on paper how we felt about our son. I don’t know if he kept the letters but if he did, hopefully he will look at them in the future and remember how we feel about him. Teachers and fellow students spoke about adversities they had lived through (everything from high school pregnancy to the unexpected death of a family member). He seemed to take away the message that you can work through adversity to have a good life.
This week my “blog better than mine” belongs to Fr. Martin Fox at Bonfire of the Vanities. His homilies are excellent. Go show him some love!
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