September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. As you may know, ovarian cancer is hard to detect so it’s important to be as aware as possible about potential symptoms and know the truth behind popular misconceptions about this disease. Here are the myths debunked below:
5 Misconceptions about Ovarian Cancer
#1. My annual pap test can detect ovarian cancer.
In truth, your annual pap test is good for detecting cervical cancer, but is not a reliable way to detect ovarian cancer. Remember that at your next appointment if you have any concerns bring them up to your doctor. They may want to do extra tests to determine if ovarian cancer may be a possibility.
#2. No ovaries = no ovarian cancer.
If you’ve had your ovaries removed in surgery–like a form of hysterectomy or ovary removal surgery, you would think you are free from ovarian cancer since your ovaries are gone! While that definitely lower your chances of developing ovarian cancer, the risk is not completely gone. Ovarian cells could have moved pre-operation, and unfortunately, still become cancerous.
If you had your ovaries removed recently or any time previously, just be sure to keep following up with your doctor and report back if you are not healing properly or feel like something is isn’t right.
#3. The CA-125 blood test is very reliable in detecting ovarian cancer.
Currently, there are no real reliable screening tests for ovarian cancer. The CA-125 blood test checks the levels of the cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) in your blood. The CA-125 protein is found on most ovarian cancer cells, and can seep into the bloodstream. While this test can be helpful during treatment–as high levels should lower if treatment is working–it is not completely reliable as a screening test. Some women may have high levels due to other conditions–such as endometriosis or even during their menstruation period– and some women who have ovarian cancer do not experience high CA-125 levels.
#4. I cannot reduce my risk as it’s 100% inescapable.
People think of ovarian cancer in two ways: (1) they believe that it’s mainly genetic and they are not at risk if they have no family history of it, or (2) they believe it’s a “predestined” or “inevitable” cancer for certain people and therefore completely unavoidable. The fact is that you can take action to prevent ovarian cancer and lower your risk of developing the disease in a couple of ways.
In new research, contraceptive or birth control pills have recently been shown to lower the rate of contracting ovarian cancer when used over a prolonged period of time. Due to the more modern versions of the pill that contain lower estrogen and other hormones, researchers found that “hormonal contraceptives prevented approximately 21 percent of ovarian cancers among the women who took the oral contraceptive pill” according to a 2018 Healthline article. While the numbers are not solid evidence, it is another stepping stone into finding more ways to prevent cancer. Other ways you can reduce your risk for ovarian cancer? Giving birth, breastfeeding, and living a healthy, balanced lifestyle!
#5. There is no recovery from ovarian cancer.
Though it may feel like there is no recovery from ovarian cancer, it can be defeated. As with any cancer, the earlier it is detected the better chance there is of survival. (See the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition for signs and best practice to catching it early.) Also, having the right doctor (aka a Gynecologic Oncologist) perform the surgery, as well as following with certain treatments will give a better chance of recovery.
Knowing the facts about ovarian cancer can be frightening. It’s important to not panic. Ask your doctor if you are concerned about symptoms or want to be more knowledgeable about ovarian cancer. Know that as doctors, nurses, and practitioners, we encourage you to remain cautious and vigilant about your health–don’t talk yourself out of a health concern. If you have any questions or concerns, make an appointment with us today at any of our three locations.