September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

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NEWARK—It is expected that over 21,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 15,000 women will lose their lives from the disease this year alone in the United States.

To help generate more understanding about this disease, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an affiliate of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System, recognizes September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and would like to share some information regarding ovarian cancer’s symptoms and risk factors.

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Ovarian cancer is the most deadly of all the gynecologic cancers. If detected early and treated properly, survival rates increase to over 90 percent.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle and hard to diagnose; however, there are four main symptoms associated with the disease: These include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or frequency

Other symptoms can include nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and backaches.

“If the symptoms are persistent and last more than two to three weeks, you should make an appointment to see your doctor,” said Alice Cohen, MD, FACP, Director of the Frederick B. Cohen Comprehensive Cancer & Blood Disorders Center, Director of the Comprehensive Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, Section Chief Breast Cancer Services, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Also, keep in mind that ovarian cancer can affect women of any race or age, so take note of and monitor any unusual changes in your body.”

Diagnosis

Your doctor may order the following tests:

  • Physical examination — Your doctor will palpate your abdomen to look for discomfort and tenderness or abnormal fluid
  • Pelvic examination
  • Blood Test — Your doctor may order a CA-125 blood test. This test measures CA-125 in the blood. CA-125 is found on the surface on ovarian cancer cells and also normal tissue. A high CA-125 level may indicate ovarian cancer or other conditions.
  • Ultrasound
  • Biopsy

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

There are four stages of ovarian cancer. Your doctor will determine your stage of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is treated differently depending on which stage you are diagnosed with.

The four primary stages are:

Stage I: The cancer is completely contained within the ovary or ovaries

Stage II: The cancer is in one or both of the ovaries and has spread to additional organs located in the pelvis such as the bladder, colon, rectum or uterus.

Stage III: The cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to one or both of the following: the lining of the abdomen or the lymph nodes.

Stage IV: The most advanced stage of cancer. The cancer has spread from one or both ovaries to additional organs such as the liver or lungs, or there may be cancer cells in the fluid surrounding the lungs.

Recurrent: The cancer has returned after successful treatment.

The four stages of cancer are also divided into sub-groups

Risk Factors

Ovarian cancer does not discriminate. It can strike a woman of any race or at any age. We do know that women with certain risk factors may have a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of cancer
  • Women over the age of 55
  • Women who were never pregnant
  • Women on menopausal hormone replacement therapy

Read more about the role of heredity and genetic testing from the National Cancer Institute.

Though ovarian cancer does not discriminate against race or age, research shows that women with certain risk factors may have a greater chance of developing the disease. These factors include:

  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of cancer
  • Women over the age of 55
  • Women who were never pregnant
  • Women on menopausal hormone replacement therapy

For more information about ovarian cancer, visit www.ovariancancerawareness.org.


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