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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Learn the subtle signs of a dangerously silent disease

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Doctor holding teal ribbon
Though considered rare among all cancers, ovarian cancer is the deadliest of gynecological malignancies—due, in large part, to its notorious silence. During the month of September, we join the NationalOvarian Cancer Coalition and others nationwide in promoting awareness around this potentially devastating disease.

Because early signs of ovarian cancer, if present at all, often go unnoticed or are attributed to less serious conditions, diagnosis typically occurs at advanced, less treatable stages. For this reason, staying attuned to your body and recognizing when something isn’t right is the key to earlier diagnosis and, ultimately, effective treatment.

Red flags
Most cases of ovarian cancer are seen in women over age 55, but it can develop at any age. It sometimes presents with common gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion, bloating, pain, bowel changes or feeling full quickly. 

Other possible symptoms include urinary urgency (feeling of having to go) or frequency, back pain, pain during sex, period changes and extreme fatigue. Although ovarian cancer is an unlikely cause, never dismiss these problems, especially if they are new or unusual for you, get worse or don’t go away. Make an appointment with your ob/gyn as soon as possible.

Just as important as paying attention to your body’s signals is having regular gynecological exams, or “well woman” checkups. These allow your provider to get an overall picture of your health, including new concerns or recent changes. 

Unlike some other abdominal or pelvic cancers, ovarian masses themselves are difficult or impossible to feel on regular examination until they are quite large. This makes good communication critical for determining whether certain tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound, may be warranted. 

If you’re due for a regular checkup or have any concerns about your gynecological health, call us for an appointment today. You know your body best. Be sure to listen to it closely—this month and always.