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Awareness is Key in Detecting Ovarian Cancer Early

Rochester, N.Y., Sept. 4, 2012 Most women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer at an advanced stage, making the disease one of the most deadly gynecologic cancers. But there are early warning signs, and Cynthia Angel, M.D., says paying attention to those signs could improve the prognosis and potentially save a woman’s life.

Dr Cynthia Angel“We used to think ovarian cancer was the silent killer, and it was termed the silent killer because we thought women didn’t have symptoms,” said Dr. Angel, a gynecologic oncologist at Highland Hospital. “In reality, 95 percent of women with ovarian cancer have symptoms.”

The symptoms include bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Because the symptoms are vague, women with ovarian cancer are often misdiagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal disorders.

Dr. Angel encourages women to be their own advocates if they are experiencing any of these issues.

“You need to look at yourself and ask – how long have I been having the symptoms? Because everybody has these at some point in their life,” Dr. Angel says. “If it goes on for more than two weeks, you should talk to your primary care doctor and contact your gynecologist as well.”

Women who are most at risk of ovarian cancer are older than 40 years old, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have shown that women who have children, breast feed or take oral contraceptives lower their risk of ovarian cancer.

Your family history can also help determine your risk. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 71. The chances increase for women with a family history of ovarian and/or breast cancer.

“In those patients who have that family history, you should have a heightened awareness if you’re having symptoms,” Dr. Angel says. “Make sure your doctor knows about your history.”

For more information, visit the Gynecologic Oncology Program at Highland.

As part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Highland Hospital is sponsoring the Ovarian Cancer 5K Race in Rochester Sunday, Sept. 16. Visit Cancer Wellness Connections to learn more or to sign up for the run/walk.

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