Ovarian cancer symptoms can be subtle


The Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation has placed teal ribbons throughout downtown Dover to raise awareness. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

The Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation has placed teal ribbons throughout downtown Dover to raise awareness. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER –– Locals may have noticed that since Sept. 1 streetlights in downtown Dover have been adorned with teal ribbons. The ribbons are on display in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

The Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation partnered with Turn the Towns Teal, a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer, a condition that 20,000 women in America are diagnosed with each year.

All the ribbons are adorned with the DOCF logo and even the legislature is supporting the cause, illuminating the Legislative Hall with teal lights every night this month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in women, it remains the fifth most deadly because it is typically diagnosed later than other cancers.

“Unlike other cancers we see in woman like breast cancer or cervical cancer, there is no screening test,” Dr. Mark-Anthony Umobi of Delaware OB/GYN and Women’s Health said. “So it’s typically diagnosed later than other cancers and it’s a very aggressive form of cancer.”

If not caught in the early stages, due to the aggressive nature of ovarian cancer, it may have already spread to surrounding organs making treatment more difficult.

The DOCF’s information brochure states that about three-quarters of all cases are diagnosed in the later stages and even if treated by surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, the cancer has a 70 to 90 percent chance of returning. Less than half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive past the five year mark of their initial diagnosis.

“It’s important to have an open dialogue with your doctor,” Dr. Umobi said. “Don’t feel like you’re bothering them even if something small because symptoms for ovarian cancer typically start out small.”

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are very non-specific and can include bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain or discomfort, back pain, difficulty eating, loss of appetite, fatigue, indigestion, heartburn and nausea.

Although the symptoms are broad, they are persistent and a doctor should be seen if any persist longer than two weeks.

“If you’re experiencing symptoms, your doctor can order a test such as an ultrasound to eliminate other conditions such as a growth or cyst that could be causing similar symptoms,” Dr. Umobi said.

The CDC reports that older women are more likely to get the disease than younger women. About 90 percent of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40, with the greatest number of ovarian cancers occurring in women aged 60 years or older. About one in 70 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. The disease does not discriminate and women of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk.

Aside from the symptoms, physicians should be informed of any family history regarding gynecologic cancers because family history can be an indicator of an increased likelihood of developing cancer.

“Medicine is always evolving and I’m hopeful that some day there will be a non-evasive screening for ovarian cancer,” Dr. Umobi said.

More information about ovarian cancer and how to help spread awareness can be found online at deovariancancer.org or more than 100 salons and businesses that are displaying baskets provided by DOCF full of free informative items.

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