When Should I Be Screened For Ovarian Cancer?
At Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center, our mission is to provide patients with excellent radiation oncology care – while educating our patients throughout the duration of their treatment so they feel comfortable and relaxed. With most cancers, early detection is key in determining the success of treatment, and ovarian cancer is no exception. September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and below you’ll find more information about screenings and tests for this type of cancer.
Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer
While ovarian cancer is often treatable with early detection, it's also difficult to detect at an early stage. Often there are no symptoms until the cancer has reached a more advanced stage, making it difficult to spot early on. That said, there are a number of things to do to improve your chances at finding it early.
Regular preventive screening procedures like pap smears and pelvic exams don't usually detect early stage ovarian cancer, but maintaining these appointments can increase the likelihood of early detection. These procedures are capable of detecting abnormalities in the ovaries, including cancerous ones. In addition, it's important to watch for any potential symptoms: such as abdominal swelling or bloating, abdominal pain or pelvic pressure, difficulty eating, feeling full after eating very little, or having urinary problems like extremely frequent urination. If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor for an examination.
Tests for Detecting Ovarian Cancer
While there is research being done to develop an effective preventive screening for ovarian cancer, as of now, no such test exists. While there are two main procedures used to detect ovarian cancer, they do not serve as a general preventative measure for all women. However, they may be appropriate in certain cases.
One procedure for detecting ovarian cancer is a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS). This uses sound waves to look at the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus, very similarly to how a traditional ultrasound would work. A TVUS can spot masses in these areas, but it can't determine whether they're cancerous or benign – this would require a biopsy or additional screenings.
Another screening, the CA-125 blood test, requires a blood sample that checks the levels of CA-125, a protein closely associated with ovarian cancer. While this test can be effective for detecting and monitoring ovarian cancer, it isn’t the most exact preventive screening because several conditions can cause elevated levels of CA-125 in the body.
Because a multitude of factors contribute to your individual risk for ovarian cancer, it's best to talk with your doctor to determine the best course of action for your particular case. Together, you can come up with a plan that’s right for you.
Contact Your Elko, NV Cancer Treatment Center
Ultimately, the best method for early detection is to talk with your doctor about your specific case – and if you or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we can help. Contact us today to find out how we can help you make a plan to treat your cancer, and return to living a normal lifestyle as quickly and conveniently as possible. You can also visit our Gynecological Cancers page for more information.