What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian Cancer, depending on the stage and time of detection, is found near or on the outer layer of the ovary, the small organs on either side of the uterus that store eggs and produce estrogen and progesterone.
How do I know if I have it?
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect early on because the symptoms are vague and often resemble the pains that naturally occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Due to this characteristic, ovarian cancer often remains undetected until it is too late to take preventative action. The key to early detection is persistence of symptoms. If you are experiencing bloating, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, feeling the need to urinate urgently and often, and these symptoms are unaffected by adjustments to diet, exercise, and daily rest, you MUST schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Your annual exam is another way to detect ovarian cancer. While the pap smear can only test for cervical cancer and there is no reliable screening for ovarian cancer at this point, a pelvic exam can detect swelling and tenderness, which could indicate ovarian cancer. Transvaginal sonography and CA-125 tests are also useful for early detection. These tests can determine whether a woman is at high risk for developing ovarian cancer.
If a biopsy returns with a positive test result, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. This will depend largely on the stage of the cancer at the time of detection.
The most common response to a cancerous tumor is surgery. Most women will have some kind of surgery performed during treatment. This is often paired with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to control the growth of the tumor and hopefully destroy any remaining malignant cells.
Clinical trials are another option in treating ovarian cancer. These treatments are experimental, but they could grant you an opportunity not offered to patients seeking conventional treatments. These trials are also designed to uncover new treatment strategies, which means your treatment could advance scientific research seeking to find ways to better prevent, diagnose and treat ovarian cancer.
How can I join the fight?
One of the best ways to fight ovarian cancer is to spread awareness so women have a greater chance at detecting the disease earlier, therefore increasing possibility of beating it. Find out if there are fundraisers for cancer research in your area. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) upcoming event calendar is a great resource for this. The NOCC also has a page dedicated to ovarian cancer research for information on the advancement of diagnosis and treatment methods.