Each year, during the month of September, emphasis is given to educating and alerting women and those who love them, about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and survival of ovarian cancer. It is known as "the cancer that whispers" because the initial symptoms are very vague and can be attributed to other illnesses such as digestive problems, while the cancer continues to grow. That is why over 22,000 women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer and almost 15,000 die each year.
Early diagnosis is critical in the survival rate for ovarian cancer. My wife was diagnosed in 2004 with stage 3C (late stage) ovarian cancer. She had one single abdominal attack.
After all other possibilities were ruled out, she was given a CA125 test. This test detects the presence of the antigen/protein for ovarian cancer. We were told that she did not have cancer. It was only during surgery for a "routine" hysterectomy a couple of weeks later that advanced ovarian cancer was discovered.
She could have waited several months before having surgery, which would have made her prognosis much worse. She is now being treated with a drug called Avastin, which attacks the blood supply to the tumors and chokes the cancer. It is not a chemo drug.
This new treatment is part of the ongoing evolution for treating this and other forms of cancer. She was also recently tested for the BRCA gene to determine whether or not her cancer is the result of genetics. If the gene mutation is present, then other female family members can be tested to see if they too carry the BRCA gene. If it is present, then preventative measures can be taken to lessen the likelyhood of developing ovarian or breast cancer. She was found to be negative for the gene mutation.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer? Abdominal pressure; fullness or persistent bloating; pelvic discomfort that lasts for more than a few days; changes in bladder or bowel habits; low back pain; lack of energy.
Who is at risk for ovarian cancer? Those women with gene mutations; a family history of ovarian cancer; increasing age; never been pregnant. Some women have few of these symptoms or risk factors. The bottom line is that if you feel something just isn’t right with your body, find a doctor who will help find the reason, not just treat the symptoms.
Remember, ovarian cancer is "the cancer that whispers," so listen. We urge you to be aware of ovarian cancer all year long and to help us bring awareness, especially during September.
– Clay and Carla Allison, Springville