By the end of 2015, there will be about 21,290 new cases of ovarian cancer reported in the United States. Charities raise millions of dollars to fund research for a cure, but what can we do in the meantime to keep that number down?
There are more than 70 different types of cancers known to doctors and medical researchers, and in 2012, an estimated 14 million Americans were living with one of them, according to the National Cancer Institute.
In comparison to other forms of the disease, ovarian cancer is relatively rare — based on data compiled between 2010 and 2012, the NCI found that approximately 1.3% of American women will be diagnosed with it in 2015 While that might be a relatively small segment of the population, the fact remains that ovarian cancer is a serious disease that every woman should be screened for.
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is notoriously hard to identify, as it rarely presents any early symptoms. By the time it starts affecting a woman’s health enough to be noticeable, the cancer tends to be at an advanced stage.
Most frequently, this type of cancer is associated with epithelial ovarian tumors. These tumors are subdivided into three groups: benign tumors, low malignant potential tumors (LMP), and malignant tumors.
Benign tumors are small growths presumed not to be dangerous. Low malignant potential (LMP) tumors, which typically affect younger women, are often hard to identify as cancer under a microscope.
These tumors will grow and spread, but they aren’t always life-threatening. Malignant tumors, however, are always cancerous, and the most common kind of ovarian cancer is called invasive epithelial ovarian carcinoma.
Because the disease is so difficult to spot early on, it’s important to look closely for signs or symptoms. Unfortunately, many common symptoms of the disease, such as constipation, pain during sex, smaller appetite, and fatigue, could easily be misattributed to other conditions.
If you experience many of these signs at once, however, make sure to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as possible.
In addition to maintaining a lookout for key symptoms, women should remain aware of the typical risk factors for the disease — in other words, anything that might increase their likelihood of a diagnosis. Not everyone with a risk factor will become ill, but they’re still useful signals that indicate it’s time to get screened, like being over 50 years of age.
Additionally, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains that if you have a body-mass index of 30 or above, have never carried a baby to term, or have a family history of the disease, you should take the time to get screened for ovarian cancer every few years.
Benefits and Risks of Screening
Patients should consult with physicians and gynecologists to decide exactly how often and how extensively they should be screened for ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, screenings cost money, and many people with a high risk of contracting this type of cancer don’t have the insurance to cover extensive tests and procedures.
SingleCare provides an affordable and effective alternative that connects you to medical specialists at affordable rates, allowing you to get screenings for ovarian cancer that fit your budget. As we wrap up Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, take some time to talk to your doctor about screening — the more you know about your body, the safer and healthier you’ll be.
(Main image credit: Freestockphotos)