Your ovaries could kill you


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  • Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body
  • Ovaries: They even look scary.

Like most of you, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my ovaries. But today is National Wear Teal Day, the day when we are urged to think about ovarian cancer, so I'm directing my thoughts to those strange little egg-like structures in my reproductive system.

I was surprised to learn from the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society that a Colorado woman dies every 40 hours from ovarian cancer, and about 330 Colorado women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. In fact, a Colorado woman's chance of developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 73, and 80 percent of those diagnoses are late stage, meaning the chance of surviving for more than five years is only 44 percent. 

Pretty scary stuff. What's sad is that if more women were diagnosed earlier, far more would live. A woman diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer has a 93 percent chance of surviving five years. Most women don't get that early diagnosis because there's a lot of misunderstanding about ovarian cancer. A lot of women assume that their annual Pap smear tests for the cancer. It doesn't.

Actually, the only way to detect ovarian cancer is to look for the symptoms and follow up with your doctor. The most common things to look for are: bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary urgency or frequency. A lot of times the symptoms aren't severe, so if symptoms persist more than two weeks, it's best to get to your doctor or gynecologist for a transvaginal ultrasound, pelvic/rectal exam, and CA125 blood test. (Sounds fun, I know, but just remember it is better than dying.)

You may also want to consider whether you have risk factors for ovarian cancer such as a family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer; increasing age; never having children; and not using birth control.


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