Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cause of death among women with gynecological cancers. The most common reason for such high mortality is a late diagnosis of this disease. The disease has been labeled as Silent killer as the symptoms don’t manifest till the disease has spread considerably or because the symptoms masquerade so much that it is often ignored by the patient and dismissed at the primary care physician. Up to 70-80% women are diagnosed at late stages and despite the best of modern treatment only 30% survive by 5 years since diagnosis.
The single most important weapon against this disease is early diagnosis. Unfortunately effective screening policies have not yet been made. Till then awareness both at the level of ladies , family members and doctors is sacrosanct.
The disease usually happens in post menopausal women but it is certainly not uncommon in younger women.
The 6 most common warning signals are:-
1) Progressive abdominal bloating or heaviness
2) Loss of appetite
3) Discomfort in lower abdomen
4) Pain during sexual activity
5) Change in bladder or bowel habits
6) Low back pain
The suspicion for something sinister should be high if
1) If the symptoms are new to a lady in the past 1 year
2) The symptoms occurs for more than 12 times a month.
The affected lady should contact her doctor and also apprise them of suspicion of ovarian cancer. The next logical step in such a case should be a thorough physical examination including a per vaginal examination followed by CA125 level( its a blood test) and a ultrasound of abdomen focusing on the ovaries. Red flag signs on investigations would be a abnormally high CA125 coupled with abnormal mass or fluid in the abdomen.
Women with high risk for ovarian cancer include:-
The sensitivity for suspicion of any ovarian malignancy should be very high in the presence of such high risk features. Remember 9 out of 10 ovarian cancers can be CURED if detected early.