Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of new cancer cases in the United States and as of recent statistics accounts for four percent of all cancer in woman between the ages of thirty-five and seventy-four. It has been estimated that one woman in every fifty-five will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime.
The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) is an organization which was found in 1995 by ovarian cancer survivors in Boca Raton, Florida. In April 1995, cancer survivors became a nation wide campaign to educate and also gain recognition for this silent killer.
Ovarian cancer is malignant cells which are found in the ovaries. If diagnosed and treated early there is as five year survival rate at 93% (depending on the tumor size, stage and grade). Unfortunately ovarian cancer is not always detected early, so the five year survival rate drops to 30 to 47%. To date, it has been found that only 24% of all cases are found at an early stage.
The NOCC has complied a list of symptoms of ovarian cancer. However, they note that in the early stages, these symptoms are not acute of intense. Some of the potential warning signs are:
*Pelvic of abdominal pain or discomfort
*Vague, but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea and
*Frequency and or urgency of urination in absence of an infection
*Unexplained changes in bowel habits
*Unexplained weight gain or weight loss, particularly weight gain in the
*Pelvic and or abdominal swelling, bloating, and or feeling of fullness
*Pain during intercourse
*Abnormal postmenopausal bleeding (this sympton is rare)
If anyone has any of these symptoms, that should immediately contact their Gynecologist and express their concern. Women should also know that the Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer. The following is a list of tests which are available and should be used according to their gynecologist:
*Mandatory annual vaginal exam. This exam is for women age 18 and above and
for women age 35 and above. It’s an annual rectovaginal exam.
* Transvaginal sonography (Ultrasound) for women, especially those at high risk.
*Blood test to determine if the level of a tumor market called CA125 has
increased in the blood for women at high risk. Its role in postmenopausal
women is superior to that in premenopausal women. (Do note that if a non-
cancerous disease of the ovaries could cause a false positive test results.)
If any of these tests come out positive, you should immediately consult with a Gynecological Oncologist. X-ray studies and or samples of fluid from the abdomen or tissue from the ovaries may be performed for a most accurate reading.
If there is as history of ovarian cancer in a woman’s family, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she will get ovarian cancer. A woman should be watching for early symptons if she has a personal history of breast, endometrial, or colon cancer; uninterrupted ovulation and increasing age.
September 1998 was designated as The First National Observance for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Gail Hayward, founder and President of the NOCC expressed her concern, “Too many women are dying from ovarian cancer. Hundreds of women tell their story to us and the vast majorities believe, as I do that the lack of information about ovarian caner is an important factor in why so many women are diagnosed when it is already too late. We know that the disease is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms are vague, however, if a woman feels bad enough to seek medical help, those vague symptoms may very well save her life. That’s why we must do everything possible to ensure that physicians are not discounting ovarian cancer too quickly when making a diagnosis and that women are empowered to raise the index of suspicion when being examined.”
The NOCC found that ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the reproductive system. Statistics show that there has been a thirty percent increase of the number of ovarian cancer cases recorded from 1985 to 1995, and an 18% increase in the number of ovarian cancer deaths.
A recent national survey by the NOCC showed some devastating results. The survey revealed that approximately 4 out of 10 women knew the common signs of ovarian cancer, and sadly, on 20% of these women said their doctor talked to them specifically about ovarian cancer without them asking.
“Since our inception, we’ve heard from thousands of women with ovarian cancer who believe a lack of awareness and information about the disease was a factor in their late diagnosis. This survey confirms the need to fill the information gap. We’re hoping that the National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month has reached women across the nation,” Hayward further explains. (Gail Hayward died in May 2000, ten and a half years after being diagnosed.)
For further information you can contact the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition at 1-888-ovarian. You can also E-Mail them at NOCC.ovarian.org or visit their website at http://www.ovarian.org.
“Early detection is a major area,” explains Dr. Gil S. Lederman, Former Director of Radiation Oncology at Staten Island University Hospital. “Like many other cancers, the earlier ovarian cancer is found the more likely curative therapy will not only be offered but will be successful. Regrettable since signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are obscure, most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at the time of extensive disease.”
“Ovarian cancer remains the number one malignant killer in the gynecologic category in the United States. Most women with advanced ovarian cancer die of the disease. It is for that reason that research to determine the best treatment and combining treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation are most crucial.”
“Method of protecting one from ovarian cancer includes having one full term pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives and breast feeding. It was noted that five year use of oral contraceptives diminishes the risk of ovarian cancer by thirty-seven percent. It is recommended that all women should undergo a comprehensive physical examination including pelvic examination annually,” further explains Dr. Lederman.
Dr. Gil S. Lederman has directed the department of Radiation Oncology at Staten Island University Hospital for over two decades. He has spoken at major medical conferences around the world about the innovative date founded at SIUH. This data of Radiation Oncology is now part of medical textbooks.
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Inc.
500 NE Spanish River Blvd., Suite 8
Boca Raton, Florida 33431