Ovarian cancer insidious

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 8, 2009

The proactive local response to breast cancer awareness, screening and fundraising has been impressive. Cervical and colon cancers in women are being addressed also.

However, one cancer is insidious, not well-understood and often fatal to women. It has few, vague symptoms, if any, and by themselves they can easily be mistaken for other conditions, such as gastrointestinal disorders or simple weight gain. Often at the time of diagnosis, the patient and her family are advised of low survival rates, debilitating treatments and support groups instead of a cure. The silent killer is ovarian cancer.

There are no conclusive tests for ovarian cancers. A pap smear does not test for it. Blood tests are often unreliable and early-stage abnormal cell growth can go undetected until a biopsy of a cyst and neighboring tissues is performed. My ovarian “precancer” was discovered during an office exam for a routine colonoscopy. My doctor felt a large abdominal mass.

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Only three years ago, no abnormality of my ovaries was observed. I never thought I’d get ovarian cancer. Other women got it, not me. Now I had a cyst the size of a pint jar. No wonder my waistline was gone.

This rapid growth called for quick action and a week later I had surgery. Thankfully, the malignant cells had not spread.

I have since learned that these invisible low-malignant cell growths are over precursors to cancer. If you have a history of or have had colon cancer, breast cancer or cervical cancer or are past menopause, you could be at higher risk for ovarian cancer.

Now, early intervention is all we have. I urge all women to get yearly pelvic exams; learn all you can about ovarian cancer and its symptoms. A doctor’s exam could save your life, too.

Shirley T. White