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  • Writer's pictureDr. Loreta Garretson, M.D.

What you need to know about Ovarian Cancer


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That bloating or trouble eating could signal more than a gastrointestinal issue.


September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It is a good time to remind women that we need to listen to our bodies, know our risk factors for ovarian and other cancers, and have a relationship with a healthcare provider. According to the American Cancer Society:


• Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system


• About 19,710 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2023


Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it can be difficult to detect in early stages. That is in part because symptoms might not become apparent until the disease has advanced. A recent patient of mine (see related story, page 18) came to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department with what she thought could have been symptoms of COVID-19 or a bug she caught while on vacation. She knew her body and we continued to run tests and monitor—learning a short time later that her symptoms were how ovarian cancer was presenting itself in her.


Studies have shown stage I ovarian cancer which has not yet spread outside ovaries has 92.4 percent survival rate.


That is why it is very important to follow your gut, address risk factors that we can control and very important not to miss any red flags in your family history.


Genetic counseling and clinical trials are offered in our institution.


Because signs and symptoms aren’t always clear, there are some things women should be aware of and discuss with their healthcare provider, especially if they persist for several weeks:


• Abdominal or pelvic pain

• Bloating

• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

• Frequent urination

• Constipation/changes in bowel habits

• Unexplained weight loss

• Fatigue

• Back pain


It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other, less serious conditions. However, if you experience any of these symptoms for an extended period of time and if they are unusual for you, it is crucial to consult your healthcare provider.


Ovarian cancer is a complex disease with various risk factors, diagnostic tests, treatment options and outcomes. Some risk factors to consider: age (more common in women in over 50, with the highest risk in those aged 60 and older), family history, inherited gene mutations, reproductive factors, and obesity.


Tests and procedures we use to help diagnose ovarian cancer can include: pelvic exam; transvaginal ultrasound; CA-125 blood test; imaging tests including a CT or MRI scan; biopsy; and genetic testing.


Treatment options for ovarian cancer depend on the ovarian cancer type and stage—and the individual’s unique circumstances. They can include surgery - including minimally invasive gynecologic surgery - chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biologic therapy, and targeted therapy with PARP inhibitor.


Advances in ovarian cancer research continue, including the evaluation and development of targeted therapies and immunotherapies. Research into early detection methods is ongoing, with a focus on identifying biomarkers specific to ovarian cancer. Clinical trials—including those we offer at AtlantiCare—are exploring novel treatments and approaches to improve outcomes and reduce side effects of ovarian and other cancers.


Early detection and intervention remain key to improving outcomes for individuals at risk or diagnosed with ovarian or any other cancers.


Know your body, listen to your gut, address risk factors, and know your family history. It is crucial to talk with your healthcare team, who can provide the most current information about risk factors, screening, treatment options and advancements in ovarian cancer management.


Women with an increased risk of ovarian cancer due to family history or genetic factors should discuss risk-reduction strategies and surveillance with their healthcare providers. Regular pelvic exams and, in some cases, imaging studies or blood tests may be recommended for high-risk individuals.


For more information about the advanced care our experienced team provides patients facing an ovarian or other cancer diagnosis, visit www.atlanticare.org/cancer or call

1-888-569-1000.


Dr. Loreta Garretson, M.D., is a Hematologist/Oncologist at the AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute.

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