My line of work isn’t always easy. As the president and founder of the Ovarian Cancer Connection, I meet a lot of women who are scared of their recent ovarian cancer diagnosis, or simply don’t know all the facts about the disease. And, because ovarian cancer is difficult to screen for, there are numerous misconceptions and unknowns. A little education goes a long way. Here are nine myths and related facts about ovarian cancer.
1. Myth: My annual pap test will detect ovarian cancer.
Fact: Actually, a pap test only screens for cervical cancer, NOT ovarian cancer.
2. Myth: The CA-125 blood test is a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer.
Fact: According to the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, the CA-125 test is proven to be ineffective in diagnosing ovarian cancer. This blood test is used as a guideline for oncologists during treatment of ovarian cancer because an increase in CA-125 (a sugar-associated protein found in the blood) often goes down if the treatment is working, but not for diagnosing ovarian cancer. Researchers continue to look for a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer, but currently there is no screening test.
3. Myth: I received the HPV vaccine, which will prevent ovarian cancer.
Fact: The HPV vaccine will help to reduce the risk of cervical cancer, but not ovarian cancer.
4. Myth: I don’t have a family history of ovarian cancer, so I’m not at risk of getting ovarian cancer.
Fact: Only 10-15 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a family history of this disease.
5. Myth: I’ve had a hysterectomy so there is no chance of getting ovarian cancer.
Fact: A total hysterectomy is removal of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix. Although having a hysterectomy greatly reduces your risk of developing ovarian cancer, there is still a small chance of developing ovarian cancer. Listen to your body, and if you experience any of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, consult your doctor.
6. Myth: Ovarian cancer is always deadly and I won’t survive.
Fact: A diagnosis of ovarian cancer is very serious, but it’s not always fatal. Having a gynecologic oncologist perform your surgery increases your survival, along with the combination of chemotherapy drugs that can help to improve survival and prevent recurrences, especially in women with late stage ovarian cancer.
7. Myth: Ovarian cysts always turn into ovarian cancer.
Fact: Studies show that the majority of ovarian cysts will not grow into ovarian cancer.
8. Myth: Using talcum powder when applied directly to the genital area can cause ovarian cancer.
Fact: According to the American Cancer Society, there is no evidence of linking talcum powder to a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
9. Myth: There are no early symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Fact: The majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer do have early symptoms prior to diagnosis. The most common symptoms are:
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.
- Urinary symptoms such as frequency (having to urinate often) or urgency (having to urinate suddenly).
- Abdominal bloating.
Every woman will experience one or more of these symptoms throughout her lifetime. However, if these symptoms are unusual for you and last two weeks or longer, please see your physician, preferably a gynecologist. Chances are it’s not ovarian cancer, but check with your physician just to be safe.
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can be:
- Back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Weight loss (without dieting)
For more information about the Ovarian Cancer Connection and ovarian cancer, please visit http://ovarianconnection,org or call 419-866-6622.
Gini Steinke is the founder & president of the Ovarian Cancer Connection, who’s mission is to educate the northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan community on the early warning signs of ovarian cancer, support research of this devastating disease, and provide financial assistance to survivors in need.