Thursday, September 25, 2014

Understanding Ovarian Cancer

You've seen the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness month in October, but have you noticed the teal ribbon being displayed just one month before? The teal ribbon stands for ovarian cancer awareness, and it represents one of the most deadly forms of cancer affecting women. In honor of September’s designation as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, GBMC is doing its part to help make “the teal ribbon” as well known as the pink one. 

Ovarian cancer is one of the most fatal forms of cancers affecting women. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. Additionally, it estimates that more than 14,000 women will die in the United States from ovarian cancer this year.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer? 
The exact cause is not known, but ovarian cancer tends to affect older women, especially those over 55. Statistics show that 90 percent of women with ovarian cancer are older than 40 years old, with the majority of those diagnosed being older than 60 years old. Like many other forms of cancer, genetics plays a role in one’s likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. Women with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than others. A personal or family history of cancer also increases likelihood of developing cancer. 

Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are painful and unpleasant. Talk with your doctor if you start to exhibit any of the following symptoms: abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual pain in the pelvic or lower abdominal area, unusual changes in your bathroom habits, such as diarrhea or frequent, sudden urges to urinate. The CDC states that if something feels unusual or abnormal in your abdomen, pelvis or vaginal area to share your concerns with your physician. 

Ovarian cancer can be treated with surgery to remove cancerous tissue. If needed, traditional cancer treatment methods such as chemotherapy and radiation can also be effective. Patients may want to visit a gynecologic oncologist who has been trained in the treatment of women’s reproductive cancers. Talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment for you.  

What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, there is currently no specific screening available for ovarian cancer. Although women’s annual gynecological screenings do not detect ovarian cancer, it’s still important to have annual Pap tests with your OB-GYN and discuss any symptoms with your doctor. Staying vigilant about your reproductive health, regularly seeing your physician and monitoring any symptoms are the best steps you can take in protecting yourself against ovarian cancer. 

For more information about the women’s oncology services provided by GBMC, visit

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