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How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

Posted in Family Health.

Unfortunately, most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease (Stage III).

This is because the symptoms of ovarian cancer (particularly in the early stages) often are not acute or intense, and present vaguely. In most cases, ovarian cancer is not detected during routine pelvic exams, unless the doctor notes that the ovary is enlarged. The sooner ovarian cancer is found and treated, the better a woman’s chance for recovery. It is important to know that early stage symptoms are not silent - so women should be extra alert and watch out for early symptoms.
Potential symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
Upset stomach or heartburn
Back pain
Pain during sex
Menstrual changes

A test called OVA1 is meant to be used in women who have an ovarian tumor. It measures the levels of 4 proteins in the blood. The levels of these proteins, when looked at together, are used to put women with tumors into 2 categories − low risk and high risk. The women labeled low risk are not likely to have cancer. The women called high risk are more likely to have a cancer, and so should have surgery by a specialist (a gynecologic oncologist). This test is NOT a screening test − it is only meant for use in women who have an ovarian tumor.

Source: | Risk Factors & Prognosis
Specific risk factors or ovarian cancer causes are not known, but risk factors that may increase your chances of getting ovarian cancer may include:
High fat diet
Never having children
Infertility, or not having children until late in life
Using infertility drugs but not becoming pregnant
Starting your periods at a young age, or going through menopause at an older than average age
Use of talcum powder on the genital area
Caucasian race
Have an Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish background.
Family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer
Peronal history of breast, uterine or colon cancer

Of these ovarian cancer risk factors, the most significant is a family history of ovarian cancer and /or breast cancer (on either your mother’s side of the family or your father’s side of the family). Having one close relative with ovarian cancer increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer by nearly three times. Having additional family members with breast cancer, ovarian cancer or colon cancer increases the risk even further.
There are a number of factors that are associated with lowering the risk of ovarian cancer.
Use of birth control pills
Having multiple children
Breast feeding
Tubal ligation
Having the ovaries removed (prophylactic oophorectomy)
For those women diagnosed with ovarian cancer limited to the ovary (stage I), over 90 percent will be alive at five years. This contrasts dramatically with approximately 25 percent for those women diagnosed with stage III and stage IV ovarian cancer. Clearly, early detection and prompt diagnosis and staging with improved tests is a hope for the future.

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