Physicians encourage women to know the signs, risk factors of ovarian cancer

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - We all have a woman in our life we love and want to protect. All this month, doctors are spreading awareness about ovarian cancer and its symptoms to keep ladies from becoming one of the thousands of lives the disease takes every year.

"Ovarian cancer is unfortunately diagnosed at very advanced stages and screening has not been all that successful in terms of picking up cancer cases," said Dr. Tyler Kirby of Tennessee Valley Gynecological Oncology.

Ovarian cancer is no longer known as the silent killer, rather physicians said it whispers because it only provides subtle symptoms. In fact, Dr. Kirby said about 22,000 women will receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis this year.

"Unfortunately about 70 percent will eventually die of their disease," Dr. Kirby said.

Dr. Kirby said that high percentage is why early detection is so important. But, he said women should not make an appointment with just anyone.

"It's been found that if they have the correct surgeon and doctor managing their case, then we can double their survival," Dr. Kirby said. "The appropriate surgery, done at the appropriate time, doubles their survival compared to those that did not get surgery."

Dr. Kirby said women should look for subtle symptoms like bloating, GI discomfort, urinary symptoms, things that just don't feel right. Physicians said most ovarian cancers are going to present themselves when women are in the mid-60s unless they have a genetic predisposition.

"Patients with a BRCA mutation can have ovarian cancer risks as high as 70 to 80 percent lifetime," Dr. Kirby said.

For patients who do have a genetic predisposition, they are encouraged to receive genetic testing and screening. Doctors also encourage women who have a significant genetic risk of ovarian cancer to have their fallopian tubes removed once they are finished having children. Physicians said this is where most of the genetic ovarian cancers originate.