Have you noticed a proliferation of things turning teal this month? Things that shouldn’t be teal, like a bridge, fountains and even the entire Chicago skyline? The teal movement is an effort to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths for women in Idaho, and the fifth nationally.
There is no health screening for ovarian cancer.
That’s what makes it even scarier than most. Because there is no screening for it, many women aren’t diagnosed until the later stages of the disease. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Nearly 22,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with it each year, and 15,000 die from it. That’s why it’s so important for women to pay attention to their bodies and talk to their doctors when something isn’t right, even if it makes them a little uncomfortable.
Here are the signs or symptoms women should be on the lookout for:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area
- Back pain
- Feeling full quickly while eating
- A change in bathroom habits
If you have any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor, who can help determine the best treatment. Treatment will depend on the kind of ovarian cancer it is and how far it has spread. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are all options the doctor will consider.
Every woman has some risk, but most women get it without being high-risk. Even so, some risk factors include:
- Being middle-aged or older.
- Having close family members who have had ovarian cancer.
- Having a genetic mutation called BRCA1 or BRCA2, or a genetic abnormality associated with Lynch Syndrome.
- Having had breast, uterine, colon, or cervical cancer, or melanoma.
- Having an Eastern European Jewish background.
- Having never given birth or having trouble getting pregnant.
- Having endometriosis.
There is no known way to prevent it. But some things can reduce a women’s risk, including:
- Using birth control pills
- Having had a tubal ligation or a hysterectomy
- Having given birth
- Breastfeeding also seems to modestly reduce the risk.
The important thing all women should remember is talk to your doctor if you notice something that isn’t normal. As with all cancers, early treatment and diagnosis is very important.
- Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
- National Cancer Institute
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Women’s Health Check (screening for breast and cervical cancer for low-income Idaho women)
- Comprehensive Cancer Control of Idaho
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