After undergoing a lumpectomy, Karen McGowan of Swedesboro faced questions that thousands of women face every year. Will I need chemo? Radiation? Some other treatment? And because it was March 2020, another question was on her mind. Would she be comfortable going to a hospital for treatment just as COVID-19 was arriving in South Jersey?
Thousands of women each year receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis––more than 22,000 diagnoses were estimated for 2019, with more than 14,000 women expected to die as a result. It ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
"Ovarian cancer is called 'the silent killer’, but, many times it is really a quiet killer" says Lauren Krill, M.D., a GYN Oncologist who practices at Inspira Medical Center in Vineland. "We know now that there are symptoms, but they are often subtle, and women ignore, and sometimes even physicians don't recognize the potential urgency of evaluating the symptoms."
More than 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer aren’t diagnosed until their cancer has reached an advanced stage. Krill explains, there is unfortunately no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer and the cause is unknown. “Ovarian cancer has its warning signs, but they are vague and easy to dismiss” says Krill. “It is critical for women to discuss their risk with their gynecological care provider and to know the subtle symptoms. Women need to be comfortable raising any concerns.”
Early symptoms include abdominal bloating, pressure and pain, abnormal fullness after eating, an increase in urination or urge to urinate, fatigue, heartburn, back pain and painful intercourse, among others. These symptoms tend to get worse as the tumor grows and spreads outside of the ovaries, making it much harder to treat.
These factors can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer:
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Having children later or never at all
- Inherited gene mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2 carriers)
- Advanced age (most common in women 50 to 60 years old)
- Personal history of breast, uterine or colon cancer
If you have any signs or symptoms that concern you, or if you have any factors that put you at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer, talk to you doctor. Genetic testing, pelvic exams and ultrasounds may be recommended for high-risk women.
Inspira offers a multidisciplinary cancer team that meets regularly in tumor boards to plan and discuss each patient’s treatment plan and progress. Talk to your primary care doctor about your risk.
Schedule an appointment at Inspira by calling 1-800-INSPIRA.