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Posted: Sep 24, 2020 12:50 PMUpdated: Sep 24, 2020 1:07 PM

Ovarian Cancer: Risk Factors Women Should Know

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Garrett Giles

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society reports that when diagnosed and treated in its early stages, more than 90-percent of patients with ovarian cancer will have a five-year survival rate or longer.

Dr. Theresa Murch with Ascension Medical Group St. John said it’s important that women are aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, particularly if they have certain risk factors. She said regular women’s wellness exams can help detect ovarian cancer in its early stages, and women should continue regular exams even amidst the pandemic.

Dr. Murch said they wanted to raise awareness because many people have been putting off their routine exams in the past several months. She said ovarian cancer is one of those conditions where it is a bit difficult to detect in the early stages in the first place, so if the evaluations of problems and symptoms continues to get put off, something could be missed that could've been spotted sooner.

Basic screenings (face-to-face examinations) are down approximately 30-percent. Dr. Murch said they are starting to see an increase in people resuming their routine screening, but people continue to delay these exams. She said the same is true for screenings for breast cancer.

Researchers have discovered several risk factors that might increase a woman’s chance of developing epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common type. These risk factors include:

  • Getting older: The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40 years old, and half of all ovarian cancers occur in women 63 years of age or older.
  • Having children later or never having a full-term pregnancy: Women who have their first full term pregnancy after 35 or who have never carried a pregnancy to term have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Having a family history of ovarian cancer: A woman’s ovarian cancer risk is increased if her mother, sister or daughter has had ovarian cancer. The risk also gets higher if multiple relatives have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

With the pandemic this year, many women are missing their annual screenings. According to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 48-percent of Americans claim they or someone in their household has delayed or skipped medical care. In addition, 11-percent of those individuals who delayed or skipped medical care reported that their condition worsened as a result of delayed medical attention.

When it comes to women's health, Dr. Murch said annual screenings are absolutely essential to catching issues early.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer (i.e. bloating, abdominal pain, constipation) that won't go away, you are asked to schedule an appoinment today. Dr. Murch said Ascension has a safe environment that will protect you from COVID-19. She said they are routinely cleaning their spaces between exams and everyone is wearing a mask.

Preliminary screenings, if you did have symptoms that were suspicious for ovarian cancer, would include tests like a pelvic ultrasound. Dr. Murch said this is necessary to make sure the ovaries and the uterus are normal in appearance.

To speak with Dr. Murch about ovarian cancer risk factors, diagnosis and treatment, contact Ascension Medical Group St. John Women's Health Bartlesville at 918.331.2533.

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