YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Each year 30,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is most common among women in their 50s, but it can happen to women much younger.
Doctors call the disease the silent killer because symptoms can be overlooked and it’s the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women.
Symptoms include bloating, nausea, changes in bowels or problems urinating. All these symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses such as flu or urinary tract infection, which is the reason 75 percent of cases are diagnosed in advanced stages.
“The other reason is that there are no real good tools for screening for ovarian cancer as there are for other cancers,” said Dr. Paul Rich, chief medical officer at Northside Medical Center. “The combination of those two things often times makes it identified at a later stage when the survivals are not as good.”
With September being Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month early detection is being highlighted as the key to recovery. If discovered early, almost 95 percent of cases can be treated successfully.
Rich suggests women see their gynecologist once per year and talk about family history. He says genetics play a huge role in early detection and is the strongest predictor of ovarian cancer. The disease has some genetic tendencies, much like breast cancer.
“There are also then some other things they can do to even prevent from acquiring the cancer that is a little more invasive that can involve medication or surgical things, but this would be just the women who have the medical histories,” Rich said.
Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer should seek specialty medical care. Studies prove that access to specialty care can improve survival rates.