September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
September marks the beginning of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a time to support current patients and educate the general public on ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is estimated to affect just under 20,000 American women this year alone. Since the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can be easy to miss, and no diagnostic test exists for ovarian cancer, awareness around the disease is extremely important for early detection and intervention.
Signs and Symptoms
Only about 20% of cases are diagnosed in the early stages (stages I-II), since symptoms often don’t appear until the disease is in more advanced stages (stages III-IV). Some common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Pelvic/abdominal pain
- Urinary frequency
- Menstrual changes
- Back pain
- Upset stomach, heartburn, or constipation
It’s important to visit your doctor if any of these symptoms persist for two weeks or more.
Like most other cancers, treatment for ovarian cancer can include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Integrative medicine is also commonly added to a patient’s treatment plan, which includes modalities such as massage, acupuncture, and yoga. These complementary therapies can help with stress alleviation and can relieve side effects of other treatments.
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. These risk factors include:
- Being a woman
- Overweight or obese
- Childbirth later in life or never having a full-term pregnancy
- Hormone replacement therapy
- A family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer
- A personal history of breast cancer
- An inherited genetic mutation (BRCA1, BRCA2)
- A family cancer syndrome (Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, MUTYH-associated polyposis)
- Fertility treatment
If you have a personal or family history of cancer, it’s especially important to make sure you have blood tests and screenings periodically to catch it early. Practicing healthy behaviors and habits such as incorporating movement/exercise in your day, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, can all decrease your risk. If you are a mother, you can also reduce your risk by breastfeeding if you are able.
Every September, the nationwide movement to raise awareness for ovarian cancer takes place. Knowing the warning signs, symptoms and risk factors is key for early detection and intervention for this often difficult to detect cancer. Learn more on how to join the movement at: Own Your Ovaries – ovarian.org