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HEALTHBEAT 4: Treating and preventing Ovarian Cancer

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 22,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with it this year.

Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread to the abdomen or pelvis, with 75-80% being stage three or four.

About 1 in 78 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime and while it's most common in women 60 and above, younger women can also develop it.

Dr. Donald Wender said there are several types of ovarian cancer.

"But by far the vast majority are either adeno or serous cancer that starts in the ovaries, commonly spreads to the uterus and within the abdomen," said Donald Wender, June E Nylen Cancer Center Head of Medical Oncology.

So what you should be looking for? Unfortunately, Dr. Wender said the symptoms are like a lot of things.

"Bloating, abdominal distension, maybe frequent urination which by far more likely is a UTI than this," said Dr. Wender. "Sometimes shortness of breath, weight loss, or weight gain. They're very vague symptoms and the problem is these symptoms are usually there when you already have a fairly advanced ovarian cancer."

Since the symptoms are often hard to recognize, Dr. Wender said early detection is key. That can include routine pelvic exams and looking at family history. How often you get that, depends on your risk factor.

"Women who have a history, family history of ovarian cancer, women who have a family history of breast cancer, may have a higher risk," said Dr. Wender. "Then there can be some genetic testing that can be done."

Dr. Wender said some women at high risk choose to take out their ovaries, but even if you do that, he said you can still develop cancer similar to ovarian. He said the process to surgically remove cancer, is extensive.

"Taking out the ovaries, the uterus, sampling lymph nodes, looking at the diaphragm," said Dr. Wender. "Sometimes they sample a diaphragm. They'd sample little spots because ovarian cancer tends to form little implants within the abdomen. They'll take those out."

So how does he prepare those patients?

"Get to the surgery, get the chemotherapy done," said Wender. "Then I do tell them there is a high rate of it coming back, but not everyone's comes back and there are things to do."

Dr. Wender said if you are experiencing symptoms, you should contact your primary care physician or gynecologist.

Dr. Wender said the survival rate for stage one, is very high. Stage two moves to around 80%. But oftentimes that survival rate drops to 5 years in the later stages.

Michaela Feldmann

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