Pap Smears Do Not Detect Ovarian Cancer,
and other important things you should know
Women are told to take care of themselves by having annual screening exams. The Pap smear has been a successful screening exam for cervical cancer and the mammogram has been successful at detecting breast cancer, yet there is no regular screening for the most lethal of all gynecological cancers: ovarian cancer.
Unfortunately, this is not commonly known.
To make early detection even more difficult, the signs and symptoms are often so subtle and non-specific; they can be mistaken for many common, benign conditions. As a result, the disease often goes undetected until cancer has advanced. Most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at stage III or IV, when the five-year survival rate is 39% and 17%, respectively.
In addition to screening for other types of reproductive cancers, annual pelvic exams are important to determine if the ovaries are enlarged. Should the exam reveal an abnormality, the physician may follow up with additional measures, including transvaginal ultrasounds. Transvaginal ultrasounds can be up to 95% sensitive for the detection of ovarian abnormalities. To differentiate between benign or malignant abnormalities your physician may repeat the ultrasound or obtain blood work to help differentiate between cancer and noncancerous ovarian tumors.
While there is no known cause of ovarian cancer, the most significant risk factors are age and a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer. Women who are diagnosed at a younger age have a higher chance of survival.
Know The Signs
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can seem like normal ups and downs of a woman’s cycle or even daily life. However, if any of the symptoms below are not normal for you or persist for more than a week or two, make an appointment with your gynecologist right away.
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
Frequent or urgent urination
Upset stomach or heartburn
Pain during sex
Furthermore, should the symptoms persist even after you have seen a physician, continue to follow up with your doctor. You know your body best, and you should advocate for yourself when you think something is not as it should be.
See An Expert
From routine exams to concerns about GYN cancers, G. Daniel Robison, IV, MD, offers women exceptional expertise and an uncommon level of compassionate care. He is a double board-certified expert in both Obstetrics and Gynecology (FACOG) and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS), making him among the top women’s health specialists in the region.
For an appointment concerning gynecologic issues of any kind, please call our office at 910.509.0103.
April 10, 2020