Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (September) is the perfect time for women to make sure they understand their risk for ovarian cancer. The second most common type of gynecological cancer, ovarian cancer is also the most lethal because it is usually detected at later stages, when it is more difficult to treat.
While we are still working to fully understand the underlying causes and risk factors for ovarian cancer, there are some red flags that you can use to understand if you may be at elevated risk. Take a minute to answer the questions below.
1. Do you have a personal history of breast cancer before the age of 40?
2. Have any of your male relatives had breast cancer?
3. Do you have a personal or family history of ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer in a first or second degree blood relative (mother, sister, grandmother)?
4. Do you have a family history of hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch II) in a first- or second-degree relative?
5. In the past month, have you experienced one or more of these symptoms daily for at least two weeks: bloating or sudden weight loss, pelvic or abdominal pain, urinary frequency, indigestion or feeling full quickly after you begin eating, or pelvic pressure?
6. Do you have a personal or family history of a BRCA mutation?
Answer yes to any of these? First, don’t panic. Just because you answered yes, doesn’t mean you are going to get ovarian cancer. Unfortunately we don’t have a magic formula to tell us definitively who and who won’t get the disease.
However, knowing these answers means you know if you may be at an increased risk. With the lack of a screening test for ovarian cancer, knowing your personal risk level and being able recognize subtle symptoms are the best ways we currently have in catching it early.
If you are concerned about your risk based on your answers, you should talk to your doctor. Make sure your family and personal history is documented, and read up on ovarian cancer symptoms and ways to reduce your risk. If you still have concerns, call us here at Roswell Park and ask about a consultation in our High Risk Ovarian Cancer program. We can help you better understand your personal risk level and the steps you should be taking.
Dr. duPont is no longer employed at Roswell Park.