Buddy Check 7: Navigating the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer

Buddy Check 7
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 11:26 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - In most cases, a specific screening is a key tool in diagnosing a disease. But not for one type of women’s cancer. In the instances of ovarian cancer sometimes preventative tests actually do more harm than good.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women and often goes undetected for long periods of time. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 22,000 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer every year – ranking fifth in cancer deaths among women.

Dr. Goetter, OBGYN Physician, with Marshfield Clinic explained that there aren’t a lot of specific signs and symptoms, but rather a long list of vague ones. They include bloating, pelvic and abdominal pain, difficulting eating, feeling full too fast, or urination symptoms like urgency or frequency.

“Now when you take each of those, they’re kind of vague. They can signify a lot of things. That’s why the emphasis is not necessarily their presence individually but when they are persistent, " explained Dr. Goetter.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific screening for ovarian cancer. A pelvic exam can be useful because it can find some female cancers at an early stage, but most early ovarian tumors are difficult or impossible to feel. Instead, sometimes screenings or tests can lead to unnecessary procedures.

“It can lead to a lot of false positives. On these tests that could increase the risk of a woman of having a procedure that may or may not be necessary,” said Dr. Goetter.

Early cancers of the ovaries often cause no symptoms. This is why Dr. Goetter says, attending a regular well-woman exam is the best thing a woman can do.

“If they can just come in, allow us to talk to them about their history, assess them for risk for developing ovarian cancer. And then we can further investigate any concerns they might be having,” explained Dr. Goetter.

According to Marshfield Clinic, much like for breast cancer, being positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic abnormalities can also lead to an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

  • BRCA1 positive: 44 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer
  • BRCA2 positive: 20-22 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer

When it comes to treatment, A mix of chemotherapy and surgery is typical.

To learn more or schedule an appointment with Marshfield Clinic Health System click here.