During the month of September — Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month — Mount Sinai Health System experts are offering tips on detecting symptoms, understanding the benefits of genetic testing, and discussing emerging therapies.
Ovarian cancer (OC) is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women, according to the American Cancer Society. They estimate that in 2016, about 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that about 14,000 women will die from the disease.
“Any woman who experiences unexplained bloating, an upset stomach, an urgency to urinate, or abdominal pain for a few weeks should go see a doctor,” Dr. Peter Dottino, MD, Mount Sinai’s director of gynecologic oncology, said in a press release. “Too often, women are sent to a gastroenterologist, or told they’re just aging when experiencing these kinds of symptoms, and by then they have lost valuable time.”
Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system working to provide specific care, conduct transformative research, and advance biomedical education. Mount Sinai has an extensive ambulatory network structured around seven hospital campuses and one medical school, as well as a range of inpatient and outpatient services, including community-based facilities.
Their experts want to pass along some determining factors that women may have for developing OC, including:
- Family and genetic history: Over 10 percent of ovarian cancers are related to hereditary genetic mutations (mostly mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes). Overall, the lifetime risk of OC for women who have a BRCA1 mutation is estimated between 35 and 70 percent, and for those who have a BRCA2 mutation between 10 and 30 percent. However, the lifetime risk of OC for women in the general population is estimated at less than 2 percent.
- Age: Ovarian cancer is not a normal consequence of aging, but the risk of developing the disease does increase with age, as most ovarian cancers develop after menopause and half the known cases are found in women age 63 or older.
- Hormone therapy: The long-term use of oral contraceptives reduces the risk of developing OC by nearly 50 percent.
Ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect, as ovaries are small organs that are embedded deep within the abdominal cavity. It is particularly important to be aware of the following symptoms to allow for an early diagnosis:
- Gastrointestinal upset, like gas, indigestion, or nausea;
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort;
- Pelvic or abdominal bloating/swelling;
- Constant feeling of fullness;
- Unexplained change in bowel or bladder habits;
- Feeling constantly fatigued;
- Unexplained weight loss or gain;
- Abnormal bleeding after menopause.
At this time, there is no adequate screening test for ovarian cancer, which is one of the reasons why this cancer is often found later rather than earlier in its development. If symptoms last more than two or three weeks, a woman should talk to her doctor.
For more information, visit http://www.mountsinai.org/.