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Early Detection is Key to Surviving Ovarian Cancer

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Each year 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Nearly 60 percent of them have already reached Stage 3. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition says awareness is key to catching it early which is why September has been designation as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, not even a Pap smear can detect it. That’s why so many women have reached stage 3 by the time it’s caught, by which time their chances for survival are as low as 30 percent. But if diagnosed early, the 5 year survival rate triples according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Dr. Michael Goodheart, a gynecologic oncologist at the U of I who specializes in ovarian cancer, says the best way to catch ovarian cancer early is to pay attention to your body.

”We tell people to watch out for any early satiety, so if you eat and feel full early. If they have any vague abdominal pain or distention like bloating of the abdomen and any gastrointestinal problems like constipation or diarrhea. Those could be warning signs for ovarian cancer,“ said Dr. Michael Goodheart, Gynecologic oncologist at UIHC.

Many of the symptoms are common and may not be a sign of cancer. Dr. Goodheart says if you experience any of these symptoms for more than a week or two, you should see your doctor. They can run a blood test and a CT scan to look for abnormalities. Again, catching it early is key because even if doctors are able to get rid of the cancer after a late stage diagnosis, it almost always comes back and when it comes back the odds of it going away a second time are very slim.

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