Thousands of Canadian women are currently living with ovarian cancer. It is the 5th most common cancer in women today, and by the end of this year the number of those diagnosed with the disease is expected to reach an estimated 2,800.
There are several myths that surround ovarian cancer. For example, many women believe that having regular pap testing can actually detect ovarian cancer early. However, contrary to that belief, pap tests can only screen for cervical cancer by detecting changes to the cells of the cervix. When it comes to ovarian cancer, it can only be detected from a pap smear if it is in an advanced stage. A transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test known as CA-125 can also both be useful diagnostic tools; however, there is no one definitive test that can be used to determine whether or not ovarian cancer is present when it’s pre-symptomatic. Another myth that is commonly associated with ovarian cancer is that the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine can prevent it – however, this is not the case. While the HPV vaccine can protect against genital warts and cervical cancer, it does not protect against ovarian cancer.
As mentioned, CA-125 blood testing and transvaginal ultrasounds are currently the two main diagnostic tools used to help detect or monitor ovarian cancer, though they are not conclusive. When your CA-125 levels are high, this does not necessarily mean that you have ovarian cancer. Having elevated CA-125 levels could mean the recurrence of a tumour/malignancy – however, those elevated levels can also be the result of a number of other non-cancerous health factors, too. If your CA-125 levels have decreased, this typically indicates that cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, has been effective.
Ovarian cancer typically affects women over the age of 55. Its’ cause, however, is unknown; though there are certain risk factors one should pay attention to. Women also have a higher chance of of developing ovarian cancer if there is a history of it in their family.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often non-specific, and individuals with ovarian cancer may not even be aware that they have it. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, feeling full quite quickly after eating, abdominal or pelvic pain, as well as urgent/frequent urination. That being said, it is always important to remember that just because you have some or all of these symptoms does not mean you have ovarian cancer.
This is why, as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Ali Ghahary and physicians from all across the country, as well as Ovarian Cancer Canada, are hoping to incase awareness on this deadly disease as well as find screening improvements, which will then hopefully lead to a decrease in the ovarian cancer death rate.
If you would like more information on ovarian cancer, you can visit Ovarian Cancer Canada’s website at ovariancanada.org. Also be sure to follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter and Instagram to join in on the conversation about #OvarianCancerAwareness.