The Interviews: From Awareness to Knowledge

Ovarian Cancer AwarenessHappy September 1st!  Where did summer go? We are just about at Labor Day weekend and that means it’s back to school, back to busy! All too often we tell ourselves we are too busy to get certain things done.

September is near and dear to my heart because it is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.   Following this month, October 4th to be exact, my family will be remembering my sister Stacy who died from Ovarian Cancer.

Instead of a fabulous working mom sharing her secrets for managing it all, this month’s interview is about awareness and knowledge.

Please be sure to learn the B.E.A.T. acronym from the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (shown below).

My sister told me about the “T” issue noted below a year before she was diagnosed. We just weren’t educated and didn’t know what that meant at the time. Awareness is important, but knowledge is critical.

Remember, your body whispers when health issues begin to emerge. Listen and take action by calling your doctor if something seems out of the norm and persists for more than two weeks.

Know the symptoms! The following information can be found at the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

B loating that is persistent

E ating less and feeling fuller

A bdominal pain

T rouble with your bladder

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages. This is partly due to the fact that these two small, almond shaped organs are deep within the abdominal cavity, one on each side of the uterus. These are some of the potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • 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:
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, see your physician.

When the symptoms are persistent, when they do not resolve with normal interventions (like diet change, exercise, laxatives, rest) it is imperative for a woman to see her doctor. Persistence of symptoms is key. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only around 19% of ovarian cancer is found in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form.

A rectovaginal pelvic examination is when the doctor simultaneously inserts one finger in the rectum and one in the vagina.

It is helpful to take a mild laxative or enema before the pelvic exam.

Have a comprehensive family history taken by a physician knowledgeable in the risks associated with ovarian cancer. 5% to 10% of ovarian cancer has a familial link.

Every woman should undergo a regular rectal and vaginal pelvic examination. If an irregularity of the ovary is found, alternatives to evaluation include transvaginal sonography and/or tumor markers. The most common tumor marker is a blood test called the CA-125.

Please know that a pap smear alone will not detect ovarian cancer.



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