September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and September 14th is the 8th annual Oakland Macomb OBGYN sponsored ‘Wheels & Teal’ fundraising event in the Village of Rochester Hills. We’ll be there and we’d love you to join us. It will be a ton of fun with music, raffles, beautiful old teal cars, a 5k run/walk, and more…but most importantly, it will be raising money and awareness for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Dr. Pittenger is talking to us about ovarian cancer, the ‘silent killer among us.’ As a reminder, Dr. Eleni Pittenger is the newest member of the Oakland Macomb OBGYN team, and she is passionate about teaching and advocating for women. She is happy to see you to go into more detail on any of these points, to answer your questions, or to address any other need. Just call the office to make an appointment with her (#248-997-5805).
Q: Hi, Dr. Pittenger! Can you tell us a little about ovaries first?
D.P.: Sure! Ovaries are amazing female organs and are most famously known for their ability to develop follicles, release an egg each month and give the potential for pregnancy. They also produce estrogens which are important to women’s cardiovascular and bone health. This being said, just like any organ in the human body, there is potential for cancer development.
Q: How common is ovarian cancer?
D. P.: A woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is about 1 in 78. The lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 108. Ovarian cancer is 5th in cancer deaths in women and is the most lethal cancer of the female reproductive organs.
Q: What do we look for? What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
D.P.: Signs/symptoms of ovarian cancer are quite non-specific. They include bloating, abdominal distention, feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency. Other symptoms that are more variable person to person and can include constipation, weight loss, back pain, and pain during intercourse. It’s tricky, because they often present like gastrointestinal issues, and so sometimes we dismiss them as ‘belly trouble.’ If you experience any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time (they don’t resolve simply, within a week or so), make an appointment to be seen.
Q: Is there a way to predict your risk of getting ovarian cancer?
D. P.: The strongest risk factor for ovarian cancer is having a strong family history of the disease. This is why we have you complete the cancer screen every time you come to our office, and ask that if it changes (new diagnosis in your family), you let us know right away. Those with significant family histories will often require more regular assessments, and often genetic testing is recommended, to better determine risk. Patients who have an inherited gene mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2, two mutations strongly associated with ovarian cancer) have up to a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 70! These patients are typically counseled by their doctor on when they should have their ovaries surgically removed to eliminate the risk of cancer development.
Q: Is there a routine test we can take to rule out ovarian cancer? Like Pap smears for cervical cancer?
D.P.: Unfortunately there are no reliable screening tests to help doctors detect ovarian cancer. At this point, a yearly physical exam with your gynecologist is the best way to discover an ovarian abnormality. If an abnormality is noted on an exam, other tests like a pelvic ultrasound or a blood test (like CA-125) will likely be used to help further investigate.
Thank you for speaking with us, Dr. Pittenger! We appreciate your insights and your care. If anyone is concerned that you might be experiencing these symptoms, call for an appointment today. If you’re overdo on your annual exam, call for an appointment today. If you need to update your breast/ovarian cancer screening survey, call for an appointment today.
It’s a good day to take good care of you!