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Know the Early Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer

The American Cancer Society's Cancer Statistics Center estimates that there will be 430 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Maryland in 2018 and 260 women will die of the disease. Approximately 1 in 78 women will develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime. 

Ovarian cancer is hard to detect in the early stages when treatment is most effective. In fact, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are identified in the early stages, according to the American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms, if the woman has them, are often mild and go unnoticed or are mistaken for common benign conditions. 

As advocates for women's health care, the doctors at Capital Women's Health want you to know the early symptoms of ovarian cancer and what you can do if you notice anything unusual. 

Know your risk factors.

Although there are many factors you can't control that affect your risk of ovarian cancer, such as age and family history, you can control lifestyle factors that can increase your risk. According to the American Cancer Society, obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or above, may increase your risk of breast cancer. If you are overweight, take steps to lose weight or talk to your doctor about a healthy weight-loss regimen. 

Additionally, if you have tried fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, or used hormone replacement therapy after menopause, you may be at increased risk. A family history of ovarian cancer also elevates your risk considerably. 

If you have risk factors for ovarian cancer, it's extremely important to be vigilant in looking for signs and symptoms and to talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Although there are no reliable routine screening tests for ovarian cancer, your doctor can order a transvaginal ultrasound or a CA-125 blood test if you are at higher than normal risk or show signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer. 

Be aware of common signs and symptoms. 

In its earliest stages, ovarian cancer may not produce any unusual or noticeable signs or symptoms. However, once the disease is more advanced and spreads to other organs, you may notice one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

This is not a complete list, and each of these symptoms may indicate an entirely different, noncancerous condition. However, if you have any of these warning signs, you should definitely talk to your doctor about your risk for ovarian cancer. 

The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age; women under 40 are rarely diagnosed with the disease. On the other hand, half of all new ovarian cancer diagnoses occur in women ages 63 and over. 

If you have worrisome symptoms, make an appointment today with one of the women's health specialists at Capital Women's Health, or use the online booking system to schedule an appointment.

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