September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month


Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month is here. September’s teal ribbons herald a month dedicated to increased awareness of this serious and common women’s health issue. Each year there are many scheduled events, publications and programs designed to disseminate information about this disease.Cancer of the ovaries is the fifth leading cause of all cancer deaths in women. Overt symptoms are usually associated with later stages of the illness. They include abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, loss of appetite and changes in bladder or menstrual habits. Often the woman is unaware of a problem until it is is detected on a routine gynecologic exam.There are several diagnostic tools available for ovarian cancer. One of them is the CA-125 blood test, which is often used to help determine whether or not an ovarian mass is cancerous. CA-125 is a protein that is found concentrated in tumor cells, particularly in ovarian tumor cells. If the blood levels of this protein are elevated in a woman with a detectable ovarian mass, there is approximately a 90% chance of cancer. Because this blood work is a sensitive test for women with palpable masses, it is often used for diagnostic purposes.CA-125 is also frequently used to monitor the progress of treatment. For a woman whose cancer is associated with high levels of the marker, tracking the blood levels over time will help a physician determine the effectiveness of treatment. If the levels drop significantly, then the tumor is likely decreasing in size. Conversely, if the levels increase significantly then it is probably growing.

This blood marker can be elevated in situations other than ovarian cancer. Fibroids, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease can all be associated with elevated levels. Because of these other possibilities, this test is not used as a screening tool for the general population. However, for women at very high risk, such as those with a strong family history or with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, some in the medical community may recommend this blood test for screening purposes.

September’s teal colored events will help to spread this type of information, and great deal more. The more we know, the better prepared we are to catch this disease in its early stages when it is most treatable. The month’s events start soon with Wear Teal Day on September 6. Watch for the teal, and pass along the pointers from the September happenings!

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