Ovarian cancer, the deadliest cancer of the female reproductive system, is only detected early 20 percent of the time. Once it spreads beyond the ovaries to other organs it is much more difficult to treat. Improving chances of early detection is an important goal in fighting this disease that is expected to affect more than 22,000 women in 2017. More than half of those diagnosed are expected to die as a result of the disease, 14,000 women in 2017.
News outlets such as SimpleMost have taken up the challenge to spread knowledge about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which are often misdiagnosed as anything from a stomach bug to a UTI to appendicitis. The symptoms can be vague and mimic many common diseases. They include abdominal bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, needing to urinate more urgently or more often than usual or changes in bowel habits, extreme fatigue, feeling full quickly, difficulty eating, unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite.
The important thing is to be aware that these symptoms can be linked to ovarian cancer and to note if you have these symptoms and they persist daily for several weeks. If your primary care physician is still diagnosing you with a common disease, it’s time to visit a gynecologist. Don’t hesitate, because often these symptoms don’t present until the disease has already progressed.
Don’t assume that you are not at risk because you’ve had your yearly exam at the OB/GYN. A pelvic exam isn’t an effective screening for ovarian cancer tumors. A transvaginal ultrasound or pelvic CT scan would be used for identifying a tumor, and if one is found a biopsy will be necessary to determine whether or not it is cancerous.
It is also helpful for women to know risk factors that might put them at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Those at higher risk include women who carry the BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation, ones with a family history of ovarian or other reproductive cancers and those older than 55. Some risk factors are within a woman’s control such as health habits like smoking and obesity.
There is another environmental risk factor that women have only begun hearing about recently because of the very public court cases that have been brought against Johnson and Johnson in the past 14 months, which resulted in the company being ordered to pay damages of nearly $200 million. These suits allege that talc-based products such as Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, when used for feminine hygiene, can cause ovarian cancer.
Documents presented at trial cite 30 years of scientific studies linking talc to the cancer. An expert at trial also testified that in the last 34 years, since the time of the first epidemiological study in 1982, approximately 127,500 women have died as a result of ovarian cancer that could be attributed to talcum powder use on the genitals, and an estimated 1,500 women will die within the next year as a result of talc use.
Plaintiffs attorneys report that two scientific studies have found that nearly 10 percent of the new ovarian cancer cases and deaths reported annually are caused by the genital use of talcum powder. Women can use safe talc-free alternative powders such as those made with cornstarch.