Recently a friend of mine took part in a fundraiser for NOCC, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Her mother has been battling ovarian cancer for many years. Ovarian cancer can be an especially insidious type of cancer. Often, by the time symptoms become severe, the disease is in very advanced stages. The signs and symptoms can be very subtle and can sometimes mimic other, less serious, maladies. Though there is a test for ovarian cancer–the CA-125– the results are sometimes misleading.
From the CA-125 “About” website:
“One of the major flaws in the use of the CA-125 to screen for ovarian cancer in average risk women is that an elevated CA-125 level doesn’t always equal ovarian cancer. Elevated CA-125 levels can be caused by a myriad of conditions, such as endometriosis, diverticulitis, cirrhosis, uterine fibroids, pregnancy, and even menstruation. Certain cancer treatment drugs can also influence the test, producing a false positive.”
It may be used in the future for screening specific subsets of women, and according to the About site, there may be a correlation to the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (related to breast cancer):
“The door is not closed on the possibility of a CA-125 screening test for ovarian cancer. Several studies are underway to determine how the test could be used to screen at average risk women, much like a Pap smear. Who Should Get the CA-125 Test? Women who are at a high risk of developing ovarian cancer may benefit from regular CA-125 screening. If you have a strong family risk of ovarian or breast cancer, it may be recommended that you have regular screenings. Some doctors may want to do a genetic test to see if you have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene before making a recommendation about screening. When these genes are mutated, it can greatly increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women.”
This fall, I went for a screening mammogram. In the dressing room were small, laminated cards from the Norma Leah Foundation Inc. They are an organization dedicated to increasing awareness about, and providing information about ovarian cancer. These small cards used the acronym “BEAT.”
Bloating that is persistent
Eating less and feeling fuller
Trouble with your bladder and bowels
The Norma Leah Foundation Inc. states: “Recognizing these early warning signs is your best chance for survival. If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, please see your doctor.”
The Norma Leah Foundation also reminds women that a Pap Smear does not detect ovarian cancer.
Spread the word and let’s BEAT ovarian cancer!