Ovarian Cancer creening
Our team trains with the latest techniques and technologies to increase a patient’s chances of early detection and survival.
What You Should Know
Ovarian cancer is cancer of the tissues around the ovaries, in the hormone-producing cells, or in the egg-producing cells. It is one of the most common cancers in women. It’s also one of the leading causes of gynecological cancer deaths, because ovarian cancer often is found when it’s in Stage II or Stage IV. Early detection is important for survival, which is why research is being done into screening tests. It’s also why the healthcare team at Valley Perinatal Services trains with the latest techniques and technologies to increase a patient’s chances of early detection and survival.
Screening Tests for Ovarian Cancer
For women without signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer, screening can be a challenge. This doesn’t mean there are no options for women at risk. The following are commonly used tests, and a combination of them may result in a higher chance of ovarian cancer detection.
A physical examination looks for physical abnormalities in the female reproductive organs. In ovarian cancer, it could be enlarged ovaries, fluid in the abdomen, growths or lesions. Women ages 18 and older should have an annual vaginal exam, and women ages 35 and older should get a rectovaginal exam annually.
CA-125 Blood Test
CA-125 is a protein in the blood for which a serum screening test looks. In many ovarian cancers, the level of CA-125 is elevated. While it’s not always a key marker for the disease — elevated CA-125 levels also are associated with other ovarian conditions, and some cancers might not produce it — a woman who has an abnormal pelvic exam or who is at a higher risk for ovarian cancer because of medical history might benefit from a serum screening.
At Valley Perinatal Services, we use transvaginal ultrasounds to help screen for ovarian cancer. This test uses sound waves from a transducer inserted into the vagina to create images of pelvic organs, including the ovaries. This can allow doctors to see abnormal masses that could be cancerous.
Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors
Ovarian cancer screening is recommended for those women at risk for ovarian cancer as a result of a number of factors. These risk factors include:
- Advanced age, especially if you’re older than 60
- Infertility or having never given birth
- Hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- Hormonal birth control methods
- Eastern European Jewish background
- Use of in-vitro fertilization or other reproductive technologies
- A close relative with ovarian or breast cancer such as a mother, sister, daughter, aunt or grandmother
- A personal history of breast cancer, especially before age 40
- A history of other cancers, such as uterine, breast or colorectal cancer
- Having a gene mutation or abnormality associated with certain types of cancers
- Being overweight
- Having your uterus or ovaries removed, or your tubes tied
While it’s important to check on your health, if your risk level isn’t very high, you shouldn’t need screening beyond an annual gynecologic examination as part of your preventive health care. Counseling may help you determine your risk of cancer, and a doctor can recommend screening as appropriate.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
The ovaries are located very deep in a woman’s abdominal cavity, and ovarian cancer symptoms are vague, easily confused with other diseases, and don’t often appear until the cancer has begun spreading. This is why ovarian cancer is difficult to screen for and find early on. There are symptoms associated with ovarian cancer that at-risk women should watch for.
- Abdominal swelling or bloating
- Pressure or pain in the pelvis or lower back
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in appetite, including a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner
- Changes in urinary habits, such as having to go more urgently or often
- Changes in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea
- Changes in your menstrual cycle, such as irregular periods, periods that are heavier than normal or occur after menopause
- Indigestion, nausea or heartburn
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Ovarian cancer symptoms are difficult to detect, but not absent. Pay attention to your body and watch for early symptoms if you’re at risk. If your symptoms persist, can’t be explained by a common condition, and aren’t relieved through normal interventions such as diet chances, exercise or over-the-counter medicine, talk to a doctor as soon as possible about getting screened for ovarian cancer.
Gynecological Screening With Valley Perinatal Services
Medicine is making advances every day, so reliable early screening could be possible in the future. We at Valley Perinatal want to make sure our patients and their families are cared for to the highest standards, and we’ll look for the information you need to inform your future healthcare decisions. Whether you’re looking for genetic testing to examine your risk for ovarian cancer, or want a screening test to examine something a little closer, we have specially trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment to help you find the source of your health concerns, monitor them for any changes, and be with you every step of the way. For more information or to schedule a service, contact us online or call 480.756.6000.