Pelvic Exams Can Help Spot Ovarian Cancer

SATURDAY Sept. 22, 2007 -- Ovarian cancer, the "silent killer," may not always be so silent, experts say.

That's why women need to get regular pelvic exams and pay attention to possible symptoms of ovarian cancer, according to a team of University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center experts who are trying to increase awareness about the disease.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the United States.

Until recently, it was believed that ovarian cancer did not produce any symptoms in its earliest, most curable stages. But researchers recently reported a group of symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer.

The symptoms are: bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and problems with urgency or frequency of urination. These symptoms are persistent and represent a change from a woman's normal health.

Women who experience these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their gynecologist, the cancer center experts said.

"You can explain away these symptoms to yourself. But the only way to be sure it's nothing is to go get a pelvic exam," Dr. Rebecca Liu, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U-M Medical School and a gynecologic oncologist at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

An annual pelvic exam in a must, especially among older women, who are at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

Survival rates are much higher when ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage. Five years after diagnosis, 95 percent of women with stage I ovarian cancer (the earliest stage) are still alive, compared with 30 percent of women with stage III or IV cancer. Currently, about 70 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are at an advanced stage of the disease.

More than 22,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and more than 15,000 will die from the disease.

Posted: September 2007


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