Photography, Hannah Busing, Unsplash.com
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Ovarian cancer affects 1 in 75 people in Canada with ovaries. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and we want to help you stay informed. Here are the answers to your FAQs, including symptoms, screenings, and what you can do to help someone living with this disease.
Every person born with ovaries is at risk of developing ovarian cancer, and the chances increase among those with genetic mutations, which alter genes and cause them to stop working properly.
Although ovarian cancer is common, it remains hard to detect— there is currently no reliable screening test that can diagnose the disease. Symptoms are mild and often resemble those of other diseases, and the most common type of ovarian cancer spreads before those symptoms even appear, which often leads to a late diagnosis.
A common misbelief is that the HPV vaccine prevents ovarian cancer and that a PAP test can diagnose it. However, the HPV vaccine and the PAP test are related to cervical cancer, and cannot help in the prevention and cure. The more you know about the disease, the more you can help yourself and others.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often ignored or brushed aside as daily fluctuations as they resemble those of mild and benign conditions.
Common first symptoms:
- Abdominal/pelvic pain or discomfort
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary changes
Less common first symptoms:
- Changes to bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bleeding after menopause
- Menstrual irregularities
- Back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Bleeding after sex
If you notice any symptoms that seem abnormal to you and that persist over three weeks, speak to your doctor as soon as you can so they can refer you to one of the available ovarian cancer tests: the transvaginal ultrasound, the full pelvic exam, or the CA125 blood test.
How can you help?
Cancer affects not one the person who is sick, but also their loved ones, friends, and family. If someone in your close circle is affected by the disease, here are some things you can do to help:
- Learn about the disease by visiting the Ovarian Cancer Canada website
- Find community in cancer support centres
- Provide a meal or groceries
- Help out with household chores
- Babysit kids or take care of pets
- Offer to drive them to their appointments
Remember that it is also important to acknowledge your own feelings and needs throughout this difficult time. Take care of yourself; you cannot pour from an empty cup.