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Ovarian Cancer Screening

Importance of Ovarian Cancer Screening

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects only women, usually after the age of menopause but it can happen at any stage in life. 

The ovaries are a part of the female reproductive system that produces mature eggs in preparation for fertilization. They are also responsible for producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. 

While your own risk factors will determine how often you should undergo ovarian cancer screening for ovarian cancer, you should have regular screening performed if you are currently post-menopausal or have a family history of this type of cancer. Additionally, any concerning symptoms should also be discussed with your doctor. 

Ovarian Cancer Screening process

Screening for Ovarian cancer

In order to determine your risk factors, your doctor will review your medical and family history. There will also be a physical abdomen and pelvic exam performed before deciding on offering any additional testing. 

The abdominal and pelvic exam is to screen for any lumps or growths in the lower abdominal region where the ovaries are located. A pelvis exam is more intimate and is designed to look for any abnormal lesions. If you have any concerns before undergoing these exams, please make sure to discuss them with your doctor. 

Understanding Risk Factors

Certain women may be at higher risk for ovarian cancer and may need to be screened more often. These conditions include the following:

  • History of cancer
  • No prior pregnancies
  • Late first pregnancy
  • Early start of your menstrual cycle
  • Late start for menopause
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy
  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Family history of genetic disorders with breast cancer or ovarian cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Please keep in mind that this type of cancer may not display with symptoms. However, please take note of potential symptoms which include the following: 

  • Abdominal or pelvis pain
  • Abdominal swelling or lumps
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Nausea
  • Reduction in appetite
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Breathlessness

Steps to Take Next

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek out an ovarian cancer screening as soon as possible.

There may be other reasons for your symptoms such as other reproductive problems, gastrointestinal problems, or urinary conditions that can appear similar to ovarian cancer. 

Additional Screening Tests

There are two primary tests performed to screen for ovarian cancer.

  • Pelvis ultrasound is done to visualize the ovaries and screen for any abnormal lumps or growths. This test is painless.
  • Blood test can also be performed. It will check serum CA-125 levels which are tumor markers that may be elevated due to ovarian cancer. It can also be elevated with other types of cancer such as breast, endometrium, pancreas, and others. The test may also indicate non-cancerous states such as peritoneal disease or endometriosis so this test is usually not performed on its own. 

Reducing Your Cancer Risk

You should undergo screening if you have any concerns or as a part of your regular health screening. In addition, following a healthy diet, exercising, and quitting smoking all play a role in reducing your risks.

Studies have also shown that ovarian cancer risk is reduced by using contraception, having children, and breastfeeding after giving birth.

If you have any concerns regarding ovarian cancer, make sure to speak to your doctor. Your physician will be able to give you recommendations and answer any questions that you may have throughout this process.

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